© 2023 EPFL

© 2023 EPFL

To promote research and education in cyber-defence, EPFL and the Cyber-Defence (CYD) Campus launched in 2020 the rolling call for Master Thesis Fellowships – A Talent Program for Cyber-Defence Research.

This month we introduce you to Jodok Vieli, a CYD Master Thesis Fellowship recipient. Jodok completed this year his Master’s Thesis at ETHZ.

How did you find out about the CYD Fellowships and what motivated you to apply?

I found out about the CYD Fellowships through a friend of mine who is an awarded CYD fellow. The idea to conduct research at a facility like the CYD Campus was incredibly motivating. Additionally, the financial and networking benefits of the fellowship were too good to pass up. I feel like the CYD fellowship opportunity is not well-known among ETH students. Once my supervisors learned that I had been awarded the fellowship, they urged all other lab members to consider applying.

What is your CYD Fellowship project about?

The Domain Name System (DNS) translates domain names to IP addresses. Its availability is critical to the correct operation of the Internet. An outage of DNS can disrupt numerous online services, and it has been constantly a subject of Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks.

My research aimed to systematically analyse these DoS attacks against DNS. Working on the application level I was looking for techniques that can be used to amplify DNS query traffic. I first identified various types of amplification primitives. Then, I evaluated the amplification potential of these primitives and their variations using popular DNS resolver implementations. Finally, I explored the combinations of these primitives to understand the amplification potential of multiple primitives used together. The goal of our research was to provide insights and recommendations for the development of mitigation techniques against DNS amplification attacks.

What are the advantages of conducting your master thesis project at the CYD Campus?

There are numerous advantages to conducting research at the CYD Campus. First and foremost, the financial support provided through the fellowship program has allowed me to focus solely on my research. Additionally, being awarded the CYD fellowship allowed me to access the CYD campus right next to the main station in Zurich, with state-of-the-art resources. Finally, the guidance of my CYD mentor was instrumental in helping me navigate my research project and make meaningful progress.

Did you as a child dream of working in cyber-defence?

As a child, I didn't even know what cyber-defence was! However, I have always been interested in technology and how it can be used to solve problems. It was not until I came across the brand-new Cyber Security Master’s Program that my interest was piqued. The idea of delving into the world of cyber-security and potentially becoming a "hacker" put a smile on my face and ignited a curiosity within me that I had not felt before. From that moment on, I knew that cyber-security was the field I wanted to pursue and I have not looked back since.

What is driving you to pursue research in cyber-defence?

What is driving me to pursue research in cyber-defence is primarily my genuine interest in the field. I find this mix of cryptography, machine learning, and network security to be particularly fascinating, and I am constantly driven to learn more and develop new skills in these areas. Additionally, the field of cyber-defence is fast-paced and highly relevant in today's world, with new threats and challenges emerging all the time.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your scientific career so far?

I love this idea of "standing on the shoulders of giants“, which I realized is particularly important in academia. For me this phrase really emphasizes the importance of collaboration and the idea that while individual achievement is certainly important, it is through working with others that the most significant breakthroughs are made.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

In my still young career, I am most proud of having been able to acquire complex concepts and develop challenging skills, particularly in the field of cyber security. This has been a significant accomplishment for me, as it has required a lot of hard work and dedication to master these complex concepts. Looking forward, I am excited to be able to put these skills into practice after finishing my Master’s. I believe that the knowledge and skills I have acquired will be highly valuable in my future career, both in terms of solving real-world challenges and making a meaningful impact in the field of cyber security.

Outside the lab, what do you enjoy doing most?

Outside the lab, I enjoy a variety of activities that allow me to stay active and engaged with the world around me. One of my favourite pastimes is playing sports, particularly football, which is a great way to stay fit and connect with others who share my love of the game. In addition, I have recently taken up bouldering, which has been a fun and challenging way to test my physical limits and push myself to new heights.

Could you share some tips with future applicants who are considering applying for the CYD Fellowships?

My biggest tip for future applicants who are considering applying for the CYD Fellowships is to not hesitate to apply. Even if you do not feel like you have all the qualifications or experience that you think are necessary, you never know what might catch the attention of the selection committee.