News, Emerging Technology, Cyber Essentials, Artificial Intelligence, Academia

Professor Tim Watson – Director – Cyber Security Center, Warwick University

The role of academia in Cyber Security, developing cutting-edge solutions to the ever-changing nature of cybercrime cannot be understated – at the forefront of this are the GCHQ-recognised Academic Centres of Excellence, 14 UK universities with a proven record of delivering high quality cyber security research. One of those institutions is the University of Warwick – we were delighted to talk to Tim Watson, the Director of the WMG Cyber Security Centre at the University to discuss Cyber Security and the work they are doing surrounding the topic. As his biography states, Tim has a wide range of experience in Cyber Security in both the public and private sector spheres, and currently works with a range of bodies to research methods of preventing and countering cybercrime.


We asked Tim about the role of information sharing between academia, industry and government, given the importance of co-operation and co-ordination in combating cybercrime. While Tim agrees that information sharing is important, he emphasised that it is not a solution in of itself, and there is no problem where information sharing alone can provide the answer. Tim said that while it was difficult at times for, in particular industrial partners to share information comprehensively due to its potentially sensitive nature, there is a significant willingness within the industry to share as much as possible – the challenge lies in balancing the protection of information with the benefits of open university research and publishing. Overall though, Tim feels that there is sufficient buy-in from industry and government bodies to provide results.


So who does Tim work with, and who does he perceive to be key figures in the field of Cyber Security, with the role of collaboration crucial to providing working, innovative solutions to the threats faced by cyber security professionals? Tim first highlighted the Academic Centres of Excellence, and the importance of this developing “UK-spanning community” in fostering an environment for growth and excellence in Cyber Security. While also mentioning the work the Cyber Security Centre does in collaboration with leading European and American Universities, including Carnegie Mellon and many others, Tim was keen to highlight the role of industrial collaboration in order to achieve real results – an industrial focus is required in order to create relevant, applicable solutions.


Tim is due to speak at the Cyber Security Summit and Expo on the dangers and opportunities of AI-based Security Systems – ahead of that talk, he shared a few of his thoughts on the role of artificial intelligence in Cyber Security. Tim first explained that with the ever increasing role of AI in all aspects of people’s lives, for example cars, smart cities and even fridges, the role of Cyber Security also becomes increasingly prevalent. With smart, adaptive technologies improving the efficiency and ease of use of a vast range of processes, smart, adaptive technologies must be in place to ensure these processes are not, in Tim’s words “subverted to the will of someone else”. Tim cites the current threat posed to artificial intelligence in modern day computing as evidence that Cyber Security in this area must remain cutting edge. Tim also pointed us in the direction of the PETRAS research hub – a consortium of nine major UK universities working together to explore a variety of key issues including the security of IoT, with around £23m of funding, of which WMG is a key partner.


Tim’s talk about PETRAS and their work led us on to our final topic – the interaction between the Internet of Things and Cyber Security, with the wealth of opportunities and risks surrounding the emergence of the interconnected world it has generated. Tim offered his opinion that awareness on behalf of not only Cyber Security professionals but the surrounding community, including end users, is of paramount importance, referencing here a case study from the United States of an instance where farmers downloaded third party software to their otherwise Cyber-secure machinery as a get around for a John Deere installed regulatory programme. He reiterated, referencing this interesting case as evidence, that buy-in for Cyber security has to be holistic – without end user support, without Cyber Security involvement, without a whole host of other influences, the threat of cybercrime will endure. In effect, Tim’s point is clear: The problem cannot be solved in isolation.


Tim will speak about “The Dangers and Opportunities of AI-Based Security Systems” at the Cyber Security Summit, 10:40am on Seminar Theatre 1.

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