Faculty of
Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

29 October 2020

Associate Professor Mark Utting and Professor Ian Hayes

The field of cyber security is coming of age, with more than a million job openings globally, including many in Australia, and a strong move from reactive to preventative security taking form.

At The University of Queensland, teaming up with industry specialists like Oracle Labs – the research and development branch of global technology firm Oracle – will ensure both industry and researchers can focus on the real issues that businesses and users care about.

UQ software engineering expert, Associate Professor Mark Utting said researchers across the two organisations are collaboratively working on verifying the GraalVM Compiler, a polyglot system from Oracle that supports many software languages.

 “Oracle is working to make the compiler perform better – squeezing the extra two per cent of speed out of it – and in our research partnership, we are working on verifying the correctness of the code optimisations,” said Associate Professor Utting.

“Computers are our partners in life, they’re with us in everything we do now, so making them smarter and faster benefits us all.”

Professor Ian Hayes, UQ’s Chair in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, said researchers in this field were currently very focussed on building a strong, safe future for computing.

“We are working on building a trusted computing base with heavy duty foundations based on resilient operating systems and trustworthy compilers,” said Professor Hayes.

“We can then provide these strong foundations to developers who will build trusted business software.

“With this groundwork, we can expect a future where bugs are less prevalent, malicious hackers have fewer opportunities to cause harm, and organisations can feel secure running their businesses online.”

Dr Cristina Cifuentes, Senior Director of Research and Development at Oracle Labs Australia said that with the arrival of machine learning, cyber security systems in the next five years would greatly improve.

“Over the last 13 years we’ve been working on tools that allow us to take a less reactive and more proactive approach to cyber security.

“We have a strong foundation that integrates program analysis into the development lifecycle, and now machine learning can also be used to complement these approaches, to make our security even stronger,” said Dr Cifuentes.

“Some of the new preventative measures we will be using include scanning social media data and chat forum content so we can find issues before they can become an issue or before they can be exploited.

The creation of a pipeline of highly trained, locally based professionals to fill the countless cyber security jobs available in Australia is critical to the success of this new way of thinking.

New study areas have been developed at UQ to specifically plug the local skills shortage with new courses including Principles of Program Analysis, where students look at analysing code, to find program errors and potential security flaws.

Additionally, Oracle has funded two PhD scholarships at UQ, deepening onshore knowledge in specialised areas.

One Oracle-funded PhD scholarship is still available for the project ‘verifying compiler optimization passes’, with applications closing Sunday 15 November 2020. For more information, please visit UQ Scholarships