Skip to main content

Post graduate student wins Connected Nation Pioneers competition

Post graduate student wins Connected Nation Pioneers competition

  • Date11 December 2018

A post graduate student has won a coveted award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Connected Nation Pioneers competition.

Thyla van der Merwe

Thyla (Left). Photo credit to Dan Tsantilis.

Thyla van der Merwe, postgraduate research student, EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security at Royal Holloway, won the award for the Safe and Secure Cyber Society category for her work with the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, which secures communications on the web.

The Transport Layer Security protocol is used by millions of people on a daily basis, protecting online purchases, Facebook logins, and instant messages.

Over the course of the last 10 years, TLS has suffered a number of increasingly practical attacks, leading the creators of the protocol, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), to develop a new version of the protocol, TLS 1.3.

In contrast to previous versions, the IETF has welcomed academic analyses of the protocol prior to its official release, so as to catch and remedy weaknesses before the protocol sees widespread adoption.

Thyla’s work has contributed to this newer, collaborative standardisation effort, covering both sides of the TLS design transition.

Thyla found attacks against TLS 1.2 and earlier versions that uncover user passwords and has analysed TLS 1.3 prior to its release, uncovering a serious attack which called for a fix of the protocol.

Thyla van der Merwe, said: “The Transport Layer Security protocol is the de facto means for securing the web and is used by millions, if not billions of people on a daily basis.

“This award recognises not only the importance of this critical protocol, but also all of the hard work done by the researchers and industry professionals who have contributed to its development.”

Professor Keith Martin, Director of the EPSRC CDT in Cyber Security at Royal Holloway, added: “Thyla is an absolute star.

“It's one thing conducting original and meaningful research, but quite another being able to communicate the importance of the work in clear, imaginative, and prize-winning ways.

“We are proud that the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security at Royal Holloway has provided a research environment which enables exceptional talents to flourish.”

The competition is organised by EPSRC with sponsorship from major industry partners. It aims to recognise and celebrate exceptional UK doctoral research students in the digital and ICT arena, who have demonstrated the commercial potential and impact of their research to business.

Related topics

Explore Royal Holloway

Get help paying for your studies at Royal Holloway through a range of scholarships and bursaries.

There are lots of exciting ways to get involved at Royal Holloway. Discover new interests and enjoy existing ones

Heading to university is exciting. Finding the right place to live will get you off to a good start

Whether you need support with your health or practical advice on budgeting or finding part-time work, we can help

Discover more about our 21 departments and schools

Find out why Royal Holloway is in the top 25% of UK universities for research rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’

Royal Holloway is a research intensive university and our academics collaborate across disciplines to achieve excellence.

Discover world-class research at Royal Holloway

Discover more about who we are today, and our vision for the future

Royal Holloway began as two pioneering colleges for the education of women in the 19th century, and their spirit lives on today

We’ve played a role in thousands of careers, some of them particularly remarkable

Find about our decision-making processes and the people who lead and manage Royal Holloway today