Division of Cybersecurity

Division of Cybersecurity

The Division of Cybersecurity is one of three Divisions in the School of Design and Informatics.

We have developed strong links with government, police and industry to collaborate on a range of research projects, including:

  • Improving the security of SMEs

  • Training in cybercrime response using games technologies

  • Cybersecurity into the Software Development Lifecycle

Research in the Division is a major part of the Security Research Theme and is structured into four overlapping areas:

  1. Responding to prevailing challenges of system security

  2. Vulnerability detection and the threats introduced by Internet-connected devices

  3. The usability of security prevention measures

  4. Using visualisation techniques to improve security

Secure Environments and Intrusion Detection

Any computer network is potentially vulnerable to cyber attacks. Every network has an attack surface, i.e., the set of devices on the network and the ways in which the surface may be attacked, and threats can occur at any point on that landscape.

In addition to this general threat, many common household devices are now being connected to the Internet, and newly developed devices are also being introduced into people's homes. The number of devices connected to the Internet is expected to reach 75 billion by 2025. In a number of cases, these devices have security flaws that can compromise the privacy of the owners or can be subverted to be used as a means to attack other systems.

We are developing novel solutions to effect pervasive security and privacy for networks. For example, we have used blockchain and deep learning algorithms to build an intrusion detection system able to detect cyber attacks. We have used machine learning to detect anomalous events including hardware failures and denial of service attacks in critical infrastructures]. A key challenge in machine learning for intrusion detection systems is the availability of suitable training data sets at a scale needed for threat classification. We have developed a new intrusion detection system model, based on Siamese Networks, that exploits data pair similarities rather than class discriminative features to reduce the size of data needed for training machine learning algorithms.

In our digital forensics research, we are exploiting the off-the-shelf massively parallel architectures of GPUs to substantially improve on existing digital forensics algorithm performance. In work with healthcare partners, we are supporting development of a new national data platform for AI classification of clinical images. Abertay’s role is to inform implementation of cybersecurity tools to guarantee patient confidentiality.

Abertay’s Emergent Technology Centre houses a 5G pilot core and Abertay has access to a 5G R&D Testbed in Slessor Gardens at the Dundee Waterfront. Working with colleagues in the Divisions of Games Technology and Mathematics together with Games and Arts, we will explore the security issues surrounding 5G connectivity in games and interactive experiences. Key areas of investigation are machine learning for network management, dynamical systems modelling, the Internet of Things and 5G-backed interactive experiences.

Human-Centred Security

Cybersecurity is in part a technical challenge and in part a human challenge: successful security measures depend on the interplay between users and security technology in societal and industrial contexts.

A key aspect of cybersecurity is encouraging users to behave safely online. Many online activities attract risks; some of these are known to the user and some are not. We have drawn on techniques from nudge theory and affective computing to encourage safe behaviour online. We have successfully nudged users through visual cues in a web browser into choosing longer and stronger passwords during a system enrolment task. We have developed a system that automatically detects risky online behaviour and provides feedback on risky behaviour in real time.

We have also explored security awareness and adoption of security controls by smart phone users and recommend that user education using a simple, non-technical design is key to encourage security awareness and adoption of security controls, especially in emerging markets. In other education-facing research, we are working with primary school teachers and Education Scotland to develop teaching materials to support cybersecurity in the curriculum.

Extending human-centred security beyond cybersecurity, and in partnership with industry we have investigated the perceived influence of social presence at self-service checkouts by staff and its perceived effect on dishonest customer behaviour. Our findings show that the perceived motivational and situational factors contributing to theft are complex, and surveillance in its current form does not appear to provide a sufficient social presence to prevent potential theft at self-service checkouts.

Abertay’s Emergent Technology Centre houses a 5G pilot core and Abertay has access to a 5G R&D Testbed in Slessor Gardens at the Dundee Waterfront. Working with colleagues in the Divisions of Games Technology and Mathematics together with Games and Arts, we will explore the security awareness and usability challenges surrounding 5G connectivity in games and interactive experiences. Key areas of investigation are data management and the immersive potential of 5G-backed interactive experiences.

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Division Leader

Dr Natalie Coull

Dr Natalie Coull

School of Design and Informatics | Head of Division

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