Safe and Secure ICT

Modern society is increasingly dependent on information and communication technologies (ICT). Our dependence exposes us to risks at all levels, malicious or otherwise, affecting individuals, organizations and wider society. The Safe and Secure ICT priority encourages researchers across all aspects of ICT to consider how their work can reduce, manage or avoid this risk while still realizing the benefits of such technologies.

Researchers can address this priority by undertaking ICT-focused research which reduces long-term risks in the face of accidents, malice or unpredictable events. This priority will naturally involve a strong contribution from cybersecurity researchers, but also extends well beyond this dimension to encompass all aspects of safe and secure ICT - such as reliability, robustness and maintainability with a common goal of reducing long term risks associated with technology through ICT research.

A mix of technical, socio-technical and human-centric approaches will be required to achieve this aim. Successful implementation of this priority will mean that we will start to see the integration of safe and secure thinking into all areas of ICT, particularly those in which it has been less prominent. Consideration of aspects such as reliability or safety will start to become recognised as standard practice among UK ICT researchers throughout their research projects. In some cases, this will require researchers to build new collaborations. Making Safe and Secure ICT a reality will present new research opportunities and is expected to stimulate demand for expertise.

Implementation of the Priority

The goal of this priority is to encourage a culture of safe and secure thinking among the ICT research communities. To enable this to happen, the ICT Theme will be taking following actions:

  • Encourage applicants to address the Safe and Secure ICT priority in their proposals and increase awareness of the importance of this priority across the ICT portfolio;
  • Raise the profile of the Safe and Secure ICT priority among all areas of the ICT portfolio by supporting leadership in this area;
  • Provide case studies which demonstrate work which addresses this priority in an exemplary manner;
  • Monitor the progress of this priority throughout the current delivery plan period and take appropriate action as required.

What does this mean for applicants?

The socio-technical aspects of this priority are relevant to all applicants across the ICT portfolio. Applicants are expected to address this priority in a manner which is appropriate to their research. ICT researchers are encouraged to engage with peers and colleagues from other disciplines on this topic in order establish best practice and ensure that the research community is sensitized to this issue. Peer review will be a vital aspect of the successful implementation priority.

Interaction with TIPS and PaCCS

Applicants who are seeking to address this priority should be aware of the related priority of Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security (TIPS) within the digital economy theme. TIPS supports the creation of an ecosystem that protects the interests of the individual and builds confidence that digital economy services will use personal information responsibly while enabling new commercial and societal opportunities for innovation. TIPS may be of relevance for researchers addressing technological, economic, cultural, behavioural and political challenges in this area.

Applicants are also advised to be aware of the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS). It brings together various research activities which have an impact in the prediction, prevention and reduction of security threats. PaCCS includes cybersecurity as one of its three core themes, funded by EPSRC. The cybersecurity theme of PaCCS aims to develop a clearer understanding of current and future vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks, the threats and consequences that result from them and the inadequacies of current approaches.

It is anticipated that proposals may exist which fall on a continuum between all three of these priorities: Safe and Secure ICT, TIPS and PaCCS. Applicants should consider how their proposal might contribute to the objectives of any of these priorities in order to support design of their research project and framing of their arguments for national importance.