University of Bristol cyber attack centre adds to city’s leading online defence role

November 2, 2012

Bristol has strengthened its position as the UK’s leading hub for research into cyber attacks with the opening of a dedicated centre at the University of Bristol.

The Bristol Security Centre will lead a network of bases across the UK studying all areas of cyber warfare to protect the nation’s IT systems from attack.

Defence experts believe cyber warfare will be increasingly used by rogue states, terrorist organisations and organised crime syndicates to gain access to secure information or attempt to bring down essential utilities or transport networks.

As well as training the next generation of cyber experts it will also be playing a pivotal role in helping to make government, business and consumers more resilient to online attack.

The centre has been selected by Government’s GCHQ intelligence base as an Academic Centre for Excellence in Cyber Security Research to support the government’s aims to protect the country from security threats and ensure the UK is one of the most secure places in the world to do business online.

The UK has one of the largest online economies in the world, valued at £100bn a year. Around 6% of the UK’s GDP is generated by the internet and is set to grow – making it a larger sector than either utilities or agriculture – with the internet boom predicted to create 365,000 jobs over the next five years.

Important security issues were discussed at the centre’s launch earlier this week, with a series of short talks by experts from industry leaders BAE Systems Detica, Hewlett-Packard and Trend Micro.

The centre is being led by Professor Nigel Smart, who said: “The launch was a celebration of both our research and teaching, which were recognised when GCHQ awarded us this status.

“It reaffirmed the University of Bristol’s position as a leading research institution in this area, which is of immense importance not just to business but also national security. We’re excited by the opportunities it will provide our students – they will not only be working on world-class research but also embarking on fulfilling career paths thanks to their experiences as part of the centre.”

The status of Academic Centre for Excellence in Cyber Security Research has been awarded to eight universities by GCHQ in partnership with the Research Councils’ Global Uncertainties Programme (RCUK) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The centres will increase the number of top quality graduates in the field of cyber security, keeping pace with technological change and driving up the level of innovation.

This will position the UK cyber research community as the pre-eminent environment in which to conduct leading-edge research and in turn attract the best academics and research students in the UK and from overseas. 

In return, Bristol University will receive a £50,000 capital investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and future funding opportunities. It will also play a part in formulating the future Cyber Security research agenda.

The centre brings together expertise from the university’s Faculties of Engineering, Science, and Social Science and Law. The two main research groups contributing to the centre’s work are the Cryptography and Information Security Group and the Centre for Quantum Photonics.


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