The Secure Societies Institute at the University of Huddersfield is delighted to announce 2 competitive PhD scholarships for September 2017 related to cyber security: (1) Automated task processing; and (2) Human-computer interaction.  The Secure Societies Institute is comprised of academics and researchers from seven of the University's Schools (Human and Health Sciences, Applied Sciences, Music, Humanities and Media, Art, Design and Architecture, Education and Professional Development, Business School and Computing and Engineering) and brings together internationally recognised expertise and experience in crime and security related, high calibre and impactful research. The cornerstones of the Secure Societies Institute are interdisciplinarity and collaboration with practitioners. As such, our postgraduate researchers work on a range of real-world problems utilising a synergistic approach. Successful candidates will be situated within the Secure Societies Institute and supported by research active staff and postgraduate researchers that are members of the Institute. They will have the opportunity to develop their research profile, and gain career-enhancing teaching experience and teaching-related skills.

Funding information

2 x PhD scholarships (incl. fee waiver and stipend) are available to applicants commencing a full-time PhD research programme in September 2016; one in each of the above projects (outlined in more detail below). Scholarships will be awarded through an open competition and are available for up to 3 years subject to satisfactory research progress and good citizenship. Successful applicants will receive a fee waiver that covers full tuition fees at UK/EU, a stipend of £14,296 per annum, and will have the opportunity to apply for funding to support attendance at research-related conferences. In addition to completing their programme or research successfully, PhD students are expected to contribute an average of 6 hours per week to teaching and teaching-related activities.

Students who are unable to complete their studies are required to refund the fee-waiver awarded.

Eligibility

The Institute will consider applications from promising candidates that hold a 1st Class Honours Bachelor’s degree (UK or equivalent). Ideally, candidates will also hold a Master’s degree or be close to completion. Applicants must be a citizen of an EU country to apply.

For those individuals whose first language is not English and/ or who are from a country where English is not the first language (as recognised by the UKBA), a language proficiency score of at least IELTS 6.0 (in all elements of the test) is required. Exceptions may be granted if their degree was taught in English and obtained in a majority English-speaking country, e.g. UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc. as recognised by the UKBA.

Administrative contact and how to apply

Candidates are required to complete the online application form on the website. Required information includes a brief application letter, research proposal (the relevant project description below should be copied and pasted in this section, rather than proposing a different project), two academic reference letters, copies of degree certificates and transcripts and proof of English language proficiency (if English is not your first language).

PLEASE NOTE: Please select the following research degree program: Computer Science and Informatics (PhD). The research degree application form should be marked clearly with “SECURE SOCIETIES INSTITUTE PhD SCHOLARSHIP CYBER SECURITY: <INSERT PROJECT TITLE (A) OR (B) HERE>”

(A) Project title: Automated task processing in cyber analysis

Supervisory team: Dr Simon Parkinson (School of Computing and Engineering) & Prof. Paul Ward (School of Human and Health Sciences)

A cyber investigation is loosely defined as the process of examining digital data to establish and verify hypotheses. For example, examining a sequence of audit logs to determine how an attacker compromised a system. Many of these processes are dependent on expert knowledge to plan the investigative process. Knowledge is needed regarding the data sources that can be analysed, the analysis tools required, and the data items of interest. This current process is widely regarded as unsustainable as new knowledge is continuously required as new vulnerabilities and threats are exposed. This has large financial implications for small businesses and home users who cannot afford to access such expertise.

This PhD project has the broad scope of investigating different mechanism to autonomously extract, store, and utilise investigative knowledge. An aim of this PhD project is to develop new theory and computational tools which can provide assistive automation is cyber investigations. This PhD project would suit someone with a background in a computer science related degree who has an interest in cyber security and/or intelligent systems. This research project is largely exploratory and is operating in fertile ground. There are many potential routes that this research may take depending on the applicant’s experience and expertiseinterests within the cyber security sector. For example, applicants may want to pursue a specific application area of interest in investigative cyber crime. This PhD project will be multi-disciplinary and you will be supervised by experts in both computer science and cognitive psychology. As the Secure Societies Institute is dedicated to working on relevant real-world problems in crime and security, the practical application within the security sector of the research will be considered by liaising with collaborative organisations. Interested applicants are invited to contact Dr Simon Parkinson (s.parkinson@hud.ac.uk) for further information.

(B) Project title: Human-computer interaction: Understanding and modelling cyber sensemaking and situation awareness

Supervisory team: Prof. Paul Ward (School of Human and Health Sciences) & Dr Simon Parkinson (School of Computing and Engineering)

IT systems are constantly evolving, both in terms of their level of technical sophistication and complexity, and capability to mitigate potential security threats. Current software systems are more reactive than proactive in terms of detecting security threats and protecting against system vulnerabilities. This will likely continue for the foreseeable future. As a result, cyber attacks and hacks are easier to implement, users of all types and levels of experience are more easily deceived, and systems easier to compromise. For instance, email phishing—where users are deceived into executing malicious code on their own system—is now commonplace, which can render systems inoperable and hold end users to ransom. Although some safeguards are usually put in place, the detection of these and similar attacks, as well as taking necessary precautions and mitigating actions, are often the sole responsibility of the end user or system operator. This presents a considerable cognitive, social and technical challenge: How to support cyber sensemaking and situation awareness and implement strong safeguards to prevent user-focused attacks from occurring?

This interdisciplinary project aims to gain a better understanding, through developing cognitive, behavioural and computational models, of how humans interact with cyber-physical systems. This will include researching and understanding the micro- and macro-cognitive processes of users/operators, especially in terms of their sense-making and decision making skills, and ability to gain and maintain cyber situation awareness. It is envisaged that the models developed will be used to design more resilient software safeguards, through adopting a 'human-centred' approach to cyber security. This PhD project is expected to be naturalistic and exploratory in the first instance. However, it is expected that testable hypotheses will be generated and attempts at falsification made, via subsequent experimentation, simulation, and/or intervention. A mixed-methods (i.e., quantitative and qualitative) approach will likely be adopted as we foresee many potential routes that this research may take depending on the applicant’s experience, expertise, and interests. This PhD project would suit applicants with a multidisciplinary background in cognitive psychology/science, human factors, and computer science. In particular, the project is suited to applicants with interests in cyber security and a desire to combat the challenges facing the security sector. The project will be supervised by experts in both cognitive psychology and computer science. As the Secure Societies Institute is dedicated to working on relevant real-world problems in crime and security, the practical application within the security sector of the research will be considered by liaising with collaborative organisations. This project will be conducted in collaboration with The Applied Cognition and Cognitive Engineering Research Group (The AC2E Group). Interested applicants are invited to contact Professor Paul Ward (p.ward@hud.ac.uk) for further information.

Deadline

The deadline for the receipt of applications is 17:00 Friday 28 July 2017 for September 2017 start date.             

Person Specification

The successful candidate will be able to meet the following criteria: 

Person specification of essential (E) or Desirable (D) requirements

Note: Criteria apply to both projects (A and B) unless stated

 CriteriaEssential or DesirableEvidenced
Qualifications

1st class Honours Bachelor's degree (UK or UK equivalent) in a relevant area E Application form
Master's degree (UK or UK equivalent) in a relevant area D Application form
For individuals whose first language is not English and/or who are from a country where English is not the first language (as recognised by the UKBA), a language proficiency score of at least IELTS 6.0 (in all elements of the test) is required. Exceptions include where the degree above was taught in English and obtained in a majority English-speaking country, e.g. UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand etc as recognised by the UKBA E Application form
Knowledge




Good knowledge of the scientific method and the goals of science (i.e. description, explanation, prediction and control) E Application form/Interview
Good knowledge of research methodology, research design, quantitative and qualitative research methods and statistical analysis techniques E Application form/Interview
Good theoretical and conceptual understanding of the broad scientific literatures on human-computer interaction and expert/skilled performance E Application form/Interview
Good knowledge of computer architectures (data structures, software, hardware, programming languages, algorithms) [Project A only] E Application form/Interview
Good theoretical and conceptual understanding of the literature on situation awareness, sensemaking, and decision making in cyber and other complex domains [Project B only] E Application form/Interview
Knowledge of user-centred design, human-centred design and/or related human factors-based design methods [Project B only] D Application form/Interview
Experience







Previous experience of conducting experimental, simulation-based, and/or behavioural research (e.g. undergrad. or master’s dissertation) E Application form/Interview
Experience of independently generating and developing research ideas E Application form/Interview
Experience of scientific writing for peer-reviewed publication and presentations E Application form/Interview
Experience of designing and writing software [Project A only] E Application form/Interview
Experience in conducting cognitive task analysis and/or interview-based (e.g., critical incident/qualitative) research methods and analysing/representing the corresponding data [Project B only] D Application form/Interview
Experience in cognitive, HCI-, computational or systems-based modelling and task analytic methods (e.g., GOMS, HTA, ACT-R, SOAR, EPIC, Reliability modelling, etc.) [Project B only] D Application form/Interview
Experience of implementing user-centred or human-centred design projects [Project B only] D Application form/Interview
Experience of translating research for, and producing impactful deliverables useful to the target community D Application form/Interview
Experience of coordinating and managing projects D Application form/Interview
Skills          Understands the fundamental differences between taught and research degrees in terms of approach and personal discipline/motivation E Application form/Interview
Able to, under guidance, complete independent work successfully E Application form/Interview
Good organisational skills and ability to work to tight deadlines E Application form/Interview
Ability to work within a multidisciplinary team E Application form/Interview
Ability to design, plan and manage a research project E Application form/Interview
Ability to prepare research proposals for external funding (e.g., Student Research Fellowship) D Application form/Interview
Excellent communication skills; written and verbal E Application form/Interview
Meticulous preparation and data management skills E Application form/Interview
Good statistical skills; Numerate E Application form/Interview
IT Literate; Ability to solve operational and technical problems independently; Attention to detail E Application form/Interview