University of Manchester recognised as Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research

The University of Manchester has been named an Academic Centre of Excellence (ACE-CSR) in recognition of its internationally leading cyber security research.

The University is one of 21 universities to receive the status by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – the UK’s lead technical authority on cyber security.

It is one of several initiatives outlined in the UK government’s National Cyber Strategy ‘Protecting and promoting the UK in a digital world’, which describes how the government is working with academia and industry to make the UK more resilient to cyber attacks.

The scheme aims to enhance the quality and scale of academic cybersecurity research and postgraduate training being undertaken in the UK; make it easier for potential users of research to identify the best cybersecurity research and postgraduate training that the UK has to offer; and help to develop a shared vision and aims among the UK cybersecurity research community, inside and outside academia.

The Centre will be led by colleagues in the University’s Centre of Digital Trust and Society, which has a long history of world-leading cyber security research and will be directed by Professor Nicholas Lord and co-directed by Professor Daniel Dresner and Dr Mustafa Mustafa.

Nicholas Lord, Professor of Criminology at The University of Manchester, said: “We are very proud to be recognised as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research. Receiving this status is further recognition of our long-standing commitment to world-leading cyber security research and key to the realisation of our five-year research plan.

“Our cyber security research has been a focal point for the University since founding our Digital Futures platform in 2018, with our sociotechnical approach to cyber security coming together recognisably in 2021 by the creation of our Centre for Digital Trust and Society – a truly unique Centre with a strong interdisciplinary nature.

“Over the next five years we hope that we can use our ACE-CSR recognition to strengthen our collaborations with other ACEs and NCSC, as well as enhance our collaborations with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority with a view to integrating cybersecurity into the city region’s business community.”

Professor Colette Fagan, Vice-President for Research at The University of Manchester, added: “I am thrilled that our University has been recognised as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research. This achievement, led by our Centre for Digital Trust and Security, underscores our commitment to pioneering cyber security research and innovation through interdisciplinary collaborative research. This approach and ambition is vital to ensure that the benefits of the rapid pace of technological change are developed in ways that ensure a safe and more secure digital world for our citizens and organisations.”

The University was required to show evidence of NCSC’s tough standards to be considered, including: commitment from the university’s leadership team to support and invest in the university’s cyber security research capacity and capability; a critical mass of academic staff engaged in leading-edge cyber security research; a proven track record of producing high impact cyber security research; and sustained funding from a variety of sources to ensure the continuing financial viability of the research team’s activities.

Chris Ensor, Deputy Director Cyber Growth at NCSC, said: “I’m delighted that 21 universities have been recognised as Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research, including four who have received the award for the first time. These recognitions are testament to the dedication of academics, support staff and senior management who have ensured that cyber security remains high on the university’s agenda. And they demonstrate that the UK has a growing number of world-class universities carrying out cutting-edge research into all areas of cyber security. We very much look forward to working with them over the coming years to tackle the most difficult cyber security challenges.”

The Centre for Digital Trust and Society at The University of Manchester is one of few cyber and digital security and trust research centre in the UK led from social science, rather than a computer science or engineering department.

It focuses on barriers to, and enablers of, trust in digital and cyber technologies and has more than 80 active researchers affiliated to the Centre.

The Centre prides itself on its strong interdisciplinary engagement across the University and supports six multi-disciplinary research clusters: Trusted Digital Systems, Digital Technologies and Crime, Workplace and Organisational Security, Democracy and Trust, Privacy and Trust and Advanced Mathematics.

Dr Mustafa, Senior Lecturer in Systems and Software Security at The University of Manchester, said: “While our cybersecurity research across the Department of Computer Science provides the fundamentals and foundations of our Centre’s research, our social science academics provide the societal relevance and context: secure cyber- and digital systems are grounded in everyday human behaviours and interactions. It is for this reason that we coordinate our sociotechnical cybersecurity research activities ensuring the people and social factors remain central. We do this by engaging in cross-cluster and cross-disciplinary research activities, realising our sociotechnical work through internally and externally funded research.”

Over the next five years, researchers will work on a wide range of projects from cyber security controls, building secure and safe (AI) software to counter threats, through understanding offending and victimisation of cybercrimes, to the application of our cyber security research in development and industry, as well as the cyber risks to political-economic systems and organisational workplaces, and the need for data privacy and security.

The ACE-CSR will continue to hold strong national and international links – in particular – to work with its partners in the Greater Manchester Cyber Ecosystem and the wider North West Cyber Corridor.

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