Creating a Security Culture

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EPSRC contributed to the making of the Security Institute/ITN Productions ‘Creating a Security Culture’ programme which highlights EPSRC’s investments within the field of Cybersecurity, bringing together different disciplines across academia and facilitating collaboration between academia and industry. It promotes the value of EPSRC’s support in ensuring the UK has the underpinning research and skills in place to tackle the Cybersecurity issues that are critical to every industry and sector.

EPSRC’s contribution focused on showing how Cybersecurity is pervasive across all industries and sectors and how our investments in cybersecurity research and skills have a real impact on UK prosperity, helping the nation to be productive, healthy, resilient and connected. EPSRC encourages interdisciplinary research, bringing together engineers, mathematicians and scientists with social scientists and industrialists to ensure an holistic approach to data security research.

EPSRC-supported researchers Professor Chris Hankin, Professor Awais Rashid, Professor Jeremy Watson CBE, Professor Máire O’Neill, Professor Sakir Sezer, and Professor Sir John McCanny told us more about how EPSRC funding supports their areas of research.

The programme is a news-style piece that showcases the increasingly diverse and multidisciplinary nature of Cybersecurity and involves interviews, news-style reports and editorial profiles of some of the leading organisations in the sector.

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Natasha Kaplinsky - Newsreader

From power stations to pc’s we are increasingly dependent on the nation’s cybersecurity expertise to keep the nation running smoothly and that means keeping one step ahead of sophisticated hackers and criminals.  The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is at the forefront of research into protecting our vital infrastructure as Robin Ross reports.

Robin Ross – Reporter

The world is connected more than ever transforming lives and industry, but with it comes danger.  Infrastructure is the backbone of the UK, from our power stations to our airports.  It keeps the country running but all this data and all this connectivity also makes us vulnerable to cyber-attacks.  And as more businesses use algorithms for the control systems, so the threat grows.

Professor Chris Hankin – Director, Institute for Security Science & Technology, Imperial College London

The worse that can happen is probably exemplified by recent attacks that we saw in the Ukraine, where basically power companies were attacked and the end result was that a quarter of a million consumers actually lost power for a period of time, so that’s the endgame in attacks on control systems.


Imperial College is working with industry to solve global problems.  It receives funding from the EPSRC.  It brings together academia and industry to make business networks secure.

Dr Miriam Dowle – EPSRC (MD)

What we are doing at the moment is trying to crystallize with them what their longer term priorities are and what they really like from the academic community, so that we can stimulate that work within the academic community.


Imperial is an academic centre of excellence in cybersecurity research and is one of 14 established by EPSRC.  Lancaster University is another.

Professor Awais Rashid – Director of Security Institute, Lancaster University (AR)

We have gone out and studied how security problems arise in the real world and what practitioners face on a regular basis, but we also, within our lab, run our own water treatment facility which actually emulates what exists in the real world.  We have also developed new ways of detecting attacks that might be launched against this kind of infrastructure. 


Cyber-attacks are a Tier One threat alongside terrorism, war and natural disasters.  The aim is to stay one step ahead of the hackers and attackers.


We work with Hewlett Packard, Enterprise, BT, also Talis, so they cover a wide range of sectors. It’s not just the defence sector that has to care about these things, it is pervasive across industry.


A £9.8 million grant from EPSRC in partnership with the Department of Culture Media and Sport helped to create a unique research programme.  The PETRAS Internet of Things Research Hub.  Nine universities are analysing the potential social, economic and security implications of the world being digitally connected, bringing together social and technical scientists.

Professor Jeremy Watson CBE – Vice-Dean of Engineering Sciences at UCL, Director of PETRAS Research Hub

We need to look at all the inputs, if you like, the transmission channels, the analytical channels which includes big data and analytics in the cloud and so on, and the way people then use the data, and in that system I’d include people as well as those technical things, so actually it’s a human machine system. 


A recent special summit saw world leaders in cybersecurity gather in Belfast.  The UK is recognised as one of the top three countries for international excellence in cybersecurity research.  EPSRC helps Queen’s University turn ideas into reality.

Professor Maire O’Neill – Electronics, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Queens University Belfast

EPSRC also helped to fund the CSIT Innovation and Knowledge Centre along with Innovate UK and that’s really interesting and allows our focus not only to be on high quality research, but also on the commercialisation of that research. 


Queen’s University also supports high tech spin-out companies.  One start-up has successfully licensed intellectual property inspecting data at high speed for potential threats.

Professor Sakir Sezer – CTO, Titan IC systems

EPSRC has provided the baseline funding for the core research.  It basically set the foundation that this technology could be developed, but also turned into an IP.

Professor Sir John McCanny – Centre for Secure Information Technologies, Queens University Belfast

When we started this in about 2008 there was really no cyber kind of activity around this area.  There has since been about 1,200 new jobs created, a mixture of start-up companies and growth and indigenous companies, foreign direct investment and we reckon that that’s generating £60 million a year in salaries alone for the global economy.


Keeping the UK safe in cyberspace is a priority and a passion.


As a researcher it is actually very rewarding to see that your work can really, in its small way, change the world a little bit.