Professor Damien Manuel

Industry Professor, Cyber Security Research and Innovation Centre

Technology pervades almost every element of modern life and Deakin’s foremost cyber-security expert, Industry Professor Damien Manuel, is determined to ensure it continues to provide opportunities to enhance our lives, rather than threats.

Turning cyber-risk into cyber opportunities

“I’m inspired to do what I do because in the not-too-distant future, people will have advanced interfaces to connect directly to digital devices,” he says.

“If we don’t find ways to improve the security of devices, adjust business processes appropriately and educate people on the positive impacts of technology and the negative consequences, we could end up in a world with no privacy and where going online is a daily risk.”

Mr Manuel is the Chair of Deakin University’s Executive Advisory Board for Cyber (EABC), and the Chairperson of the Australian Information Security Association (AISA). He has been a Board Member for the Oceania Cyber Security Centre, and worked in senior security roles for Symantec, Blue Coat Systems, RSA, Melbourne IT, National Australia Bank, Department of Infrastructure, Dimension Data, Ericsson and Telstra. He has an Executive MBA from University of Melbourne.

Hacking from an early age

His extensive experience is a far cry from his first childhood foray into computer hacking, when he and friends would hunt for vulnerabilities in their VIC-20 and Commodore 64 personal computers and work out how they could make them more secure. “The movie War Games added to my interest of finding security flaws and ways to defeat complex systems,” he says.

Mr Manuel has since helped develop and write global industry certifications and is currently on CompTIA’s Executive Advisory Committee (USA), the Victorian Ombudsman’s Audit and Risk Committee, the board of RSA Australia, is the Chair of Standards Australia’s standards development committee for cyber security and privacy, and helps mentor entrepreneurs through Deakin University’s CyRise program, Australia’s only cyber security start-up accelerator.

Working to secure vaccine supply chains

Deakin’s Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation (CSRI) is working on a wide number of technology-based initiatives across emerging application domains such as enabling smart and safe cities, and creating a cybersafe connected vehicles and networks.

Recently, his team has worked with the Federal Government and Deloitte on developing best practice guides for critical infrastructure in Australia and provided advice to the government on securing COVID-19 vaccine supply chains and how to increase vaccination uptake by the community.

However, his team’s work is also deployed to identify government security vulnerabilities and protect against cyber attacks, identify disinformation and manipulation on social media platforms, and disrupt increasingly sophisticated criminal activities such as scams.

“By designing systems and processes that are resilient to attacks, improving the human-to-digital experience and by educating the community on the technology they use, we can all live in a safer world and enjoy the advantages of digital technology,” he says.

CSRI questions and answers

We sat down with Damien to find out more about the Cyber Security Research and Innovation Centre (CSRI).

About CSRI

The Institute for Cyber Security Research and Innovation (CSRI) takes a holistic approach to cyber security – addressing technological, business and human aspects of cyber security, as well as law, regulations and policy. It offers a unique cyber ecosystem that provides the full spectrum of education, research and translation across all relevant disciplines.

We sat down with Mr Damien Manuel to find out more about CSRI and its work.

What is the Institute for Cyber Security Research and Innovation (CSRI) and what inspired you to become its Director?

Based within Deakin's Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment, the CSRI takes a holistic approach to cyber security – addressing technological and human aspects of cyber security, as well as law, regulations and policy. It offers a unique cyber ecosystem that provides the full spectrum of education, research and translation across all relevant disciplines.

The cyber eco-system includes CSRI, CyRise – the Southern Hemisphere’s only dedicated cyber security accelerator, the Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI), Deakin Energy, the Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A2I2) and the Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics.

Deakin's business partners in cyber security include companies like DXC Technology, NTT, Cyber CX, PWC and Deloitte, through to global automotive companies, defence and government agencies.

I was inspired to become its Director because Deakin’s approach to cyber security isn’t just about technology. Deakin takes a holistic approach focused on the human, business, technology, regulation and legislative aspects of cyber. This approach is desperately needed as no matter how secure the technology is, the human element will always be vulnerable to manipulation by cyber criminals and hostile foreign governments. To protect Australian businesses and the community we need appropriate legislation, regulation and community education to drive long lasting behavioural changes so people adopt and develop better online habits.

Deakin also has the right can-do attitude and genuinely wants to develop tangible innovative solutions for industry and the community to advance Australia – so it is about delivering research that makes a positive impact, rather than just another academic paper.

What do you think distinguishes CSRI from other research institutes in this field?

At the CSRI our expertise, state-of-the-art facilities and vast industry network means we are uniquely positioned to deliver the value of research to industry.

No other university in Australia has the number of industry executive cyber security leaders from some of Australia’s best-known companies as Industry Professors and Adjunct Professors who are helping to shape Deakin’s student courses and research direction.

How does CSRI contribute to Deakin's strategic priorities? What are your priorities for the Institute?

One of Deakin’s key priorities is creating safer communities and CSRI does this in a number of ways:

  • Every quarter we hold the Executive Advisory Board for Cyber which brings together over 60 of Australia’s leaders in Industry and Government to discuss and workshop improvements to courses, address skill shortages, set the research agenda and share knowledge and skills with a focus of helping Australians.
  • Working closely with industry partners on new innovative ways to improve cyber security resilience for their organisations.
  • Working in conjunction with other Institutes and Schools in Deakin to deliver services to help Small to Medium Enterprises who form the backbone of the Australian economy to become more cyber resilient. CSRI also provides the community and industry with free seminars across the year to help Australians learn more about cyber security and digital safety.

CSRI projects

What are some of the major projects CSRI is working on?

Some of our major research projects include:

  • Providing Provable Privacy-preserving Data Sharing Services for the Cloud Secure and Efficient Communication in Vehicle-based Radio Frequency Identification Systems, Zero Trust Architectures for Australia’s Critical Infrastructure Security, Computer Vision Enabled Multimedia Forensics and People Identification
  • Remote attestation of devices in smart grids
  • Development of next Generation Authentication Technologies for security critical infrastructures
  • Real-time Detection of Concealment of Intent for Passenger Screening

Higher Degree by Research

What disciplines are you looking for in your HDR students and how can prospective students engage with CSRI?

Our students come from a range of disciplines including computer science, information systems, law, psychology and policy. This is reflective of the research program of Centre that aims to address emerging cybersecurity challenges through the multi-disciplinary lens of technology, systems, human behaviour, law and policy.

Prospective students can engage with the Centre in a number of ways. These include our summer scholarships program, research internships program for undergraduate and postgraduate students, our research training programs for honours and master’s students which can serve as pathways into a master’s by research or PhD with CSRI. Students are also welcome at our regular online webinars where we have leading researchers and industry leaders speaking. There are also opportunities for students to get involved as research assistants in our research projects.

How do HDR students contribute to CSRI’s work? Where do you see your current HDR students working in the future? How do you see them contributing to the field?

HDR students are a key component of the research and innovation activities of the Centre. PhD projects are often designed to explore fundamental research questions that lead to ground-breaking discoveries. Hence, we are always seeking to work with and support highly motivated HDR students.

We seek to prepare our students for careers across industry domains working in operational as well as strategic and research & development roles. We see our students working within industry and government leading strategy and policy development, security operations, in R&D leading technology innovation teams contributing to uplifting organisational and national security, as well as developing the next generation of cybersecurity technologies, in legislative roles within government and in cybercrime prevention and policing roles.

What advice can you provide to a prospective student looking to work in the same field?

Cyber security is a very diverse and varied field.

There are opportunities for people who have a keen interest in technology, business processes, software development, human and psychology aspects, education, stakeholder management, auditing, governance, risk management, law, policy and regulations.

So don’t think you need to be just a “technical geek” to be a leader or to make an impact in cyber security. Remember that technology only solves part of the problem, changes to business processes, educating staff to drive behavioural change and working with government to develop new legislation or policies are critical to building cyber resilience in Australia.

The future of CSRI

What do you think will be some of the most exciting or ground-breaking uses of CSRI’s research in 10-20 years’ time?

Some research will lead to changes in technology and policies that will unlock new services making life easier, more convenient and generate new opportunities. They will definitely help build a safer and cleaner world.

Imagine a world where you can use devices that help you in your daily life and know with confidence that the information collected by these devices is managed in a secure way which protects your privacy and safety. By developing new authentication mechanisms and improving digital identities we can enjoy new services and better health as society uses de-identified shared data sources to develop improved medical outcomes or to identify early indicators of risks to be managed.

Cyber security will be a part of everything you do in your daily life from your subscription to a self-driving car service which will pick you up and drop you off, eliminating the need to own a car to devices that will interface with your body to store your memories so you can share them with friends and family or just store them for posterity.

Imagine having an implant that allows you to download a movie and watch it by simply closing your eyes. Imagine walking down the street and knowing everyone’s name, the things they are happy to share like their favourite food and when you last spoke or interacted with them. Gone will be the days of forgetting someone’s name or birthday…..all the data will be literally in your field of vision or accessible directly off the super-fast global network just by thinking about it…..all designed to maintain your privacy and safety.