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  • DUT Alumni


After three and a half years of sleepless nights conducting research, Dr Zephania Philani Khumalo obtained his Degree of Doctor of Engineering. He is the only PhD student who graduated under the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) 2022 Virtual Autumn Graduation last Friday, 13 May 2022.

Dr Khumalo from Manguzi, far north of KwaZulu-Natal is filled with excitement after his hard work and sleepless nights finally paid off.

The title of his thesis is Privacy and Security for Applications and Services in Future Generation Smart Grids, and he completed it under the supervision of Professor Bakhe Nleya, Associate Professor at the Department of Electronic Engineering at DUT.

“This Thesis mainly addresses the security and privacy concerns within the Information and Communications Technology subsystem’s architectures. On the customers’ side networks, both data security, confidentiality, privacy, and integrity must be ensured at all times. In the grid’s core, measuring and monitoring units must be protected against integrity attacks, such as false data injection,” said Dr Khumalo unpacking his thesis.

According to Dr Khumalo, he chose this topic as he discovered a loophole in the Smart Grids that was not addressed and there was little interest on addressing the privacy and security in application on Smart Grids. He added that a Smart Grid is quite efficient in rendering its services, however, it is exposed to various cyber security threats by adversaries.

“Notably, security threats vary depending on the applications. Key security concerns being that during these operations, individuals’ privacy, as well as aggregated data integrity, can be compromised as a result of attacks. For this reason, any measures in the form of schemes and mechanisms implemented to preserve security and privacy must be lightweight, i.e., they should minimise the generation of computational and communication overheads during operations,” added Dr Khumalo.

Reminiscing his journey at DUT, Dr Khumalo said it was not a smooth one as he joined DUT straight from high school in 2002 to pursue engineering studies. He said his main challenge was coming from a poor family and he had to apply for a Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa (TEFSA) loan now called the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

“I pushed my studies in such a way that 60 percent of my subjects were converted to a bursary. But all in all, it was sleepless nights and no partying. Hard work was required. We used to sleep at a library basement when we had study sessions. The institution was very supportive with all material we required,” recalled Dr Khumalo.

He believes obtaining a PhD will help him peruse his academic ambitions as he would like to be a lecturer one day. Going forward, he plans to continue writing and publishing more papers with his supervisor, Prof Nleya. It has always been his dream to use his expertise to change the life of the rural community of Manguzi where he comes from.

His future research work will be on further enhancing privacy and security in modern Smart Grids (SG) with Internet of Things (IoT) as the underlying communications infrastructure. He said it interests him to have challenging research which solves technical problems and come up with a unique solution.

He is grateful for the support he received from his family and friends, and he is looking forward to all the celebrations promised to him after graduating.

To current students in his field, he said the field is very challenging, however, with determination nothing is impossible.

Pictured: Dr Zephania Philani Khumalo

Simangele Zuma

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