Oliver Bills

Teaching Fellow

Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton

Oliver Bills is a teaching fellow at the University of Southampton with a specialism in the software aspects of cybersecurity, programming, cloud computing and database systems. Having previously worked in the industry as both an employee and as a consultant, he brings industrial experience to the academic world, along with a keen drive to take cybersecurity education to the next level through cutting edge, engaging, relevant, practical-world teaching.

Oliver has designed, developed and teaches various modules across the software cybersecurity spectrum, including all lecture material, practical assessments, lab based excercises and accompanying support. One such module is the newly developed COMP3226 Web and Cloud Based Security, addressing the key concepts of Web and Module Security, the fundamental concepts and approaches, client and server side vulnerabilities as well as the appropriate tools and techniques for finding, exploiting and fixing such vulnerabilities. This module also includes distributed systems security, especially the understanding of attacks and appropriate defences along with an applied understanding of authentication, authorisation and accountability.

A similar module is COMP6230 Network and Web Based Security which in addition to the concepts above also introuces operating systems and virtualisation and in particular operating system hardening techniques. COMP6236 Secure Software Systems takes these concepts further and also introduces Malware and Attack technologies, including static and dynamic analysis, removal and detection along with defense and anti-defense methods and advanced approaches such as rootkits. COMP6236 also addresses Software Security and the understanding of the different types of software vulnerabilities along with their detection, mitigation and explotation and some aspects of forensics, including operating system analysis and application and cloud forensics.

Network security topics, including application, transport, network and link layer security, along with network defense tools and advanced network security topics including the ever-growing Internet of Things, is covered in his contribution to the software side of the module COMP3210 Advanced Networks.

Throughout all these modules, Oliver uses innovative gamification techniques, interactive sessions with students and a 'choose your own adventure' method of teaching to engage students in their cybersecurity education. Custom built lab activities are provided each work to test, develop and grow student understanding on the concepts delivered in taught time. Oliver has also tailored similar content for other audiences, including designing his own CPD on Web Application Security and development and components of various Cybersecurity-related MOOCs.

Oliver also takes this content further through outreach activities in engaging young people in cybersecurity education through Scouting and Guiding and through supporing the cybersecurity competitition student teams, frequently developing exercises to push students to the limits of their understanding and take them beyond.

In addition to his teaching activities, Oliver is currently completing a Cybersecurity PhD exploring the application of a hybrid approach of static and dynamic analaysis within web applications to allow for the early identification and correction of vulnerabilities during the development process.

Oliver Bills has been one of the leaders in cybersecurity education at the University of Southampton, from the point where Cybersecurity was a single undergraduate module through to the wide array of modules and a dedication course today. Throughout this, Oliver has had a key role in the majority of software-based and web-based modules and is or has been module leader on many of them.

Oliver Bills has received an 'Excellence in Teaching' award or commendation for every year he has been teaching at the university. He has been invited to talk on his methods at various conferences and has been asked to collaboratw on various cybersecurity related projects both within the university and outside.

In addition to Oliver's custom academic applications which teach cybersecurity which has seen them be included in MOOCs and other external activities, Oliver has also developed tools and techniques for automated assessment and feedback with a particular focus on cybersecurity activities which have been adopted by others both within the institution and beyond.

Current Teaching Activities
  • COMP1204: Data Management
  • COMP1206: Programming II
  • COMP3210: Advanced Networks
  • COMP3226: Web and Cloud Security
  • COMP6204: Software Project Management and Secure Development
  • COMP6230: Network and Web-Based Security
Current Research Activities
  • Innovations in Technology Enhanced Learning
  • Activity-based Learning and Education
  • The Importance of Communities in Undergraduate Education
  • New Approaches to Web-Based Penetration Testing
  • Real-Time Static and Dynamic Analysis in Web Application Development
  • Gamification of Cybersecurity
Recent Events
Will our teaching ever be the same again? Lessons learnt from the Pandemic (July 2021)

The Pandemic posed a challenge like no other as traditional teaching was turned upside down and we struggled to adapt. But adapt we did, with new ideas encompassing everything from playing to the strengths of new technologies and different teaching methods and formats to supporting student communities remotely and finding new ways to interact, assess and engage.

In this session, we'll share the successes and lessons learnt from the Pandemic and what can be taken forwards as we return to face-to-face.