by Professor Alan Woodward

Computer hackers have disrupted the water supply in an area of the US in the latest cyber attack on infrastructure services.

Whilst nations have been concentrating on protecting obvious cyber security targets, such as financial institutions, leaving concerted international action to protect our infrastructure until the lights start going out and the water no longer comes out of the tap will be too late.

Iran and Norway have also recently come under cyber attack. Hackers are becoming more interested in the critical infrastructure of nations around the world.

Whether the motive for these attacks is cybercrime, cyber warfare or activism is almost irrelevant as what it highlights is that the vast majority of the world’s critical national infrastructure is vulnerable.

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by Michael Hough

Surrey CompSoc is the Computing Society at Surrey. It exists to develop on what is learned in lectures to have fun with computers. We work with both the department and the Students’ Union to provide guest lectures, trips, events and projects.

Anyone with even the remotest interest in computing is welcome. We’re investigating other regions of the industry to what is covered in the Computing course, and some programming knowledge could come in useful if you’d like to take a role in coding for us, but other aspects of our work don’t have that requirement.

As for what we do, we’ve got a number of activities running or in development at the moment, including:

Mindstorms Robot construction: The Computing department have been kind enough to allow us to use a pair of Lego Mindstorms robots, which we’re using to build and program machines. We’re using both Lego’s flowchart-based software and the Java-based LeJOS platform to do this, so programming knowledge isn’t essential.

Android App Development: The Android SDK is a free download from Google’s website, and we’re working on producing a number of apps for Android phones. What’s great news for us is that Android development is done mainly in Java, which is taught by lecturers in the Computing department, so we don’t have to learn a new language. We’re going right from the bottom rungs of making a “hello world” app to fully fledged applications for the Android Market.

Web Development: We’re in touch with Surrey Entrepreneurs, who are giving us web development projects to create. These are real websites for real clients, and can be a great addition to any portfolio.

Guest Lecturers: We’re contacting big names in the industry to get talks in from staff about what the company is doing in the industry. So far, we’ve had a talk from Lionhead, who previewed an upcoming game, and one from Google is scheduled.

Trips: We’re going out to places, both to witness a bit of Computing history and to participate in competitions. We’ve got a trip to Bletchley Park in the works, where the WW2 codebreaking effort was based, and which now includes a Computing museum.  And we’re looking at competitions to participate in, both within the University and beyond.

So, in short, we’re looking to learn more about Computing, and get some great stuff for the future, but to have fun while we’re at it. We’d love to see more people taking part!

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By Philip Bateman, PhD Student, Multimedia Security and Forensics Group

From October 23-26, the 10th International Workshop on Digital-forensics and Watermarking (IWDW’11) was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the USA. Myself and fellow Ph.D student Hui Wang joined our supervisor, Prof. Anthony T. S. Ho, to attend the conference where we were presenting our two papers on Digital Image Forensics and Digital Watermarking, respectively. The venue was Hilton Hotel and Casino Resort, which had great views of the Atlantic Ocean, and was located along the famous Boardwalk – a collection of shops, restaurants, and more casino’s that runs parallel to the beach.

The conference was well organised, and well attended by many like-minded researchers who were all very friendly and welcomed many open discussions on pretty much any security-related topic. Thankfully, when the topic of conversation was switched to my own research within Image Forensics, the interest continued – always a good boost for self-confidence!

As a Ph.D. student, it can be very easy to focus so much on your specific research problem that you overlook what is happening just outside your bubble. Conferences are a great way of reflecting on your work in the context of the bigger picture, and this was no exception to the rule.

Personally, I was excited to meet both Keynote speakers to this conference, Prof. Jessica Fridrich (SUNY Binghamton, New York) and Prof. Nasir Memon (Poytechnic Institute of New York University). Both are extremely distinguished researchers and pioneers in my field. To my pleasure, I learned at this conference that they are also very kind and humble – they were even happy to talk at length to me about my work, offer great words of encouragement, and even offer possible future work that I hadn’t thought of!

The Keynote presentations themselves were very enlightening. Prof. Fridrich highlighted some key challenges in Steganalysis, and the cat-and-mouse battle between detection and concealment. Prof. Memon gave an engaging insight into the key aspects of Digital Forensics – from rebuilding fragmented images from memory, to identifying the source of the image.

Of course, with every good conference comes a good social programme.  The Monday evening saw us enjoy a short (warm) walk to P.F Changs, for some amazing Chinese food – Sweet and Sour Chicken with Egg Rice is my recommendation to anyone travelling to America soon. The formal Banquet was held on Tuesday evening at the Hilton Casino Resort, where it was also announced that the next IWDW conference will be held in Shanghai, China.

Thanks to all the organisers of the IWDW’11 for a great experience.

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Scott Davies current Level 3 student.

I started the LED cube to mix my interest of electronics and computing into a small, fun and educational project that has incorporated the knowledge learnt at Surrey through both the programming and digital electronics modules.

Take a look on the following website to find out more:

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The RuleML Initiative brings together delegates from Academia and Industry who have a shared interest in Web rules. This is a wide-ranging initiative, and is a natural forum for the Digital Ecosystems Group’s work on business modelling for the Web using the OMG’s Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR). Last week, Alexandros Marinos travelled to the 2011 RuleML symposium to present his latest work with Prof. Paul Krause and Pagan Gazzard.

This work generated a high level of excitement, with Alexandros’ presentation on and associated demonstration of a syntax directed editor for SBVR winning the RuleML Challenge; the second successive year in which we have done this. It was also featured in the closing talk as one of the seven highlights of the Symposium. The award is voted on by the audience, and although the field was stronger this year, the response from the audience was better too. This fully featured editor solves a usability issue that has been impacting on the uptake of SBVR. But Alexandros stole the show with an “and one last thing” moment reminiscent of the late Steve Jobs – as he was closing his demonstration, he said, “Oh, and you can use this right now, within your browser”. This was immediately followed by a clatter of keystrokes from the audience as they all logged into the website and started building example models in SBVR. Although a simple thing to say, being fully web-based and requiring no installation was technically one of the toughest challenges, and its success is a strong reflection of Pagan’s programming skills.

Key researchers from IBM and Stanford were keen to find out more about the tool, and there were also approaches from Red Hat and Vulcan Inc to explore the possibility of integrating our tool with their work. Talking to Benjamin Grosof from Vulcan was particularly interesting to us, as Vulcan’s SILK is a meeting point for logic programming tools, one of which is Cyc, the latest manifestation of Doug Lenat’s big vision of capturing Large Knowledge in a way that facilitates mechanical inference. Working with SILK means our editor could become an interface for Cyc. Exciting times indeed!

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