Research success working with the UK Defence Sector to defend our cyber space

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For the UK Defence Sector, there is an ever-growing need to defend in our cyber space as well as the traditional domains of land, air, space and sea. Understanding the complexities of monitoring cyber space to ensure that an operational mission is a challenging task, that involves collating indicators of compromise and other related sources of information and applying data science skills to aggregate and reason about incoming observations. A team of UWE researchers, led by Professor Phil Legg, are working with Bristol-based TRIMETIS to develop innovation in this domain, and together the team have recently secured £200,000 funding from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) to support two new research projects that address these problems.

The first project seeks to understand the human-machine teaming aspects of how analysts can interrogate and reason about data observations to inform cyber defence. Furthermore, by developing improved human-machine teaming efforts, underpinning by machine learning techniques, will enable improved decision-making in response to cyber threats, and an improved synergy between how machine learning can help to reason about data and improve a human analyst’s workflow, whilst also developing a model to understand how a human analyst will reason about data, such that this can improve the system interaction further. 

The second project seeks to understand how humans can better serve as sensors about the environment to protect and defend against threats. This involves improved reporting mechanisms of threats, both online and offline, and how this information can be integrated within larger data analytics and reasoning platforms about a given mission. The project will seek to understand the barriers of reporting, and how technology can enable better data collection from observers, such that this information can then be better utilised within human-machine based analysis.

The two projects will both launch in January 2023 and will run for 9 months. The resulting outputs will be shared with the defence communities and through wider academic dissemination. This recent set of projects complement the portfolio of work that UWEcyber has conducted with DSTL and the defence community over a number of years, with previous DSTL-funded UWE projects including ARCD (2022), HASTE (2018), and RicherPicture (2015, 2017).

Measuring the Suitability of Artificial Intelligence in Autonomous Resilience for Cyber Defence

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Artificial Intelligence has attracted wide use in many aspects of society, from facial recognition and recommendation systems, through to predicting crime rates and autonomous vehicles. AI technologies are widely used in defence, including how agent-based systems can detect and respond to cyber threats when under attack from adversaries.

Whilst this continues to be a ripe area of research, there are important questions to be asked about the suitability of AI within autonomous resilience for cyber defence, relating to the usability of AI, specifically on how end users may utilise the decisions that are generated by an AI defence system, and how an end user can better understand and reason about how the decisions of the AI are formulated.

UWE researchers Professor Phil Legg and Andrew McCarthy are working with TRIMETIS and PA Consulting to address this important research question, supported by QinetiQ and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). The project is part of the SERAPIS Framework that supports rapid research and innovation to supply into the UK Ministry of Defence.

This programme of research will impact on how the UK can better identify, investigate and respond to threats in the cyber domain, as well as the impact of cyber across traditional defence areas of land, sea, air and space, and understand the role that artificial intelligence and agent-based systems will have in maintaining the defence and security of the UK.

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