Cyberspace is a source of many benefits and opportunities. But its affordances are also exploited by malevolent actors. In this changing environment, it is essential to improve our understanding of emerging threats and of how cyberspace has caused other types of threat to evolve. It is also vital that responses to these threats are not only effective, but also proportionate and respect human rights and fundamental values.
The Cyber Threats Research Centre (CYTREC) explores a range of online threats, from terrorism, cyberwarfare and cyberespionage to cybercrime, online child sexual exploitation and abuse and other online harms. CYTREC is an interdisciplinary centre, with experts from a range of disciplinary backgrounds including law, criminology, political science, anthropology, linguistics and computer science. Its members work across disciplinary divides to advance understanding of a diversity of cyber threats, assess the threat they pose and develop proposals for policy and practice.
CYTREC is also collaborative, engaging with key stakeholders at all stages of the research process: from co-creating projects to ask the research questions that matter, to sharing findings and producing policy recommendations. CYTREC’s partners include: RUSI, Tech Against Terrorism and the Marie Collins Foundation. Its work has been presented around the world – including to the UK Home Office, US State Department, Europol, at NATO Advanced Training Courses and the British and Edinburgh International Science Festivals – and it regularly hosts multi-stakeholder events, including the biennial Terrorism and Social Media (TASM) Conference.
Examples of CYTREC’s work include:
- Studying the tactics used by Islamic State to disseminate its online magazines via Twitter;
- Analysing the strategic mobilisation of topical news events in far-right groups’ online propaganda and their systematic denigration of immigrants and Muslims;
- Examining the extent to which personalization algorithms place further extremist content in front of consumers of such material;
- Analysing mis/dis and mal-information into the body politic and social discourse;
- Analysing the extent and impact of cybercrime victimisation on individuals, particularly those who are vulnerable and/or repeat victims;
- Communicative profiling of online child sexual offenders, specifically those who groom children for sex online; and,
- Conducting digital forensic investigations of computer and cybercrime, including the acquisition, preservation and analysis of digital evidence in a forensically sound manner.
The Impact CYTREC’s work has been used:
- For awareness-raising and training sessions for law enforcement;
- By the tech industry to identify platforms being exploited by terrorists and to remove terrorist content;
- To create resources for teachers and parents to increase resilience against online radicalisation;
- To develop online grooming detection software and digital resources for upskilling professionals in child safeguarding roles about how online grooming works and can be prevented; and,
- To inform the development of new legislation and law reform.
Stay up-to-date with CYTREC's research by following its director, Prof. Stuart Macdonald, on ResearchGate.
Find out more at our Terrorism and Social Media Conference on 28-29 June 2022 (https://www.tasmconf.com/) and stay up-to-date with CYTREC's research by following its director, Prof. Stuart Macdonald, on ResearchGate