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January 8, 2014

MoD funds hacker behaviour research

MoD-backed research is aimed at increasing understanding of rapidly developing cyberspace.

By CBR Staff Writer

The Ministry of Defence has announced multi-million pound funding for research projects including research into understanding the behaviour of cyber hackers.

The MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) runs two PhD programmes – the Defence and Security PhD programme and the UK-French PhD programme. More than 60 PhDs are currently being funded, with contracts totalling around £9.5 million over five years. Some of these PhDs are researching cyberspace.

DSTL is paying six-figure sums to support PhD student research to learn more about crowd culture at music festivals and football matches, as well as the impact of social networking sites and online conspiracy hypotheses in times of crisis.

Some of the PhD projects have traditional military applications, while £97,487 of funds are set aside for carrying out research at King’s College London into ‘the rise of the digital insurgency’.

The digital insurgency project, which is mainly targeted at hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’, involves interacting with members of the hacking group, dealing with details of the group, and recognising its criticisms and goals, the Guardian revealed.

In addition to targeting hacktivism, the MoD-backed projects are also dealing with major issues of social media and online culture.

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One such project at the University of Exeter has won £82,630, to examine ‘Collective Action in the Digital Age: Social identities and the influence of online and offline behaviour’.

In addition, it is also funding £137,433 Queen Mary University of London PhD investigation of crowd behaviour.

An MoD spokesperson said: "As routine cyber security measures (patching, anti-virus) become ubiquitous, socially-engineered attacks are a growing threat," the spokesperson added.

"DSTL seeks to understand these threats and the vulnerabilities they exploit in order to provide effective advice and support to the MoD and wider government on defending against these threats."

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