HDR Scholarship - Socio-Technical Challenges in Cyber Security

Applications now open. Five PhD scholarships are available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Socio-Technical Challenges in Cyber Security'.

Research topic

Cyber Security failure presents a critical risk to business, government and the community. Strategic response to the increase in cyber threats and cybercrime requires a better understanding of the underpinning socio-technical factors – an area of study that is increasing in both its importance and relevance as cyber security has now evolved as a persistent area of ‘grey zone’ conflict. In addition, the threat to the digital identity, data and privacy of citizens from cybercrime is rapidly increasing.

Researchers from the Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation (CSRI) bring together expertise in the technology, human, business, legal, ethical and policy aspects of cybersecurity. PhD candidates will be based in CSRI and work within research teams to investigate emerging social-technical issues and challenges in cyber security through a range of transdisciplinary research projects.

Project aim

There are 5 PhD scholarships available. The following is a representative list of available projects - PhD candidates are also welcome to propose transdisciplinary project ideas that align within the broad area of research.

Regulating tools of hacking: Developing national and international strategies for the regulation of hacking tools
The recent banning of NSO Group from trading in the United States represents an attempt to regulate the trade of hacking tools. However, current national and international approaches to regulating the trade of hacking tools is often contradictory, inconsistent, and has no core coherent definition of ‘hacking tools’. The regulatory regime becomes even more complex, considering the human rights implication of some hacking tools, and existing international law frameworks. This inter-disciplinary project will help develop the technical and conceptual frameworks for understanding how to regulate the proliferation of hacking tools at a national and international level.

Understanding the cyber-security threats faced by journalists and building a greater cyber-security posture
Journalist experience increased adversarial action aimed at compromising their digital communications and devices. This project will develop a deeper understanding of the threats faced by these civil society actors and develop technical and social strategies for raising the cyber-security of these actors, considering the centrality of journalists confidentiality of sources to democracy and transparency.

eSafety: Understanding and countering cyber-racism online
The Internet has become a tool for the spread of racist ideologies and aggressive online behaviour. This project aims to extend (the currently limited) understanding of online racism and hate speech and address the negative impact of cyber-racism through a series of large-scale analysis using big data and advancement of artificial intelligence technologies.

eSafety: Developing safe online behaviours and habit formation in early adopters of smart devices
Evidence indicates that the age at which regular and independent smart device usage occurs is rapidly falling and the
(official) minimum age for the use of high-risk apps such as Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, and others is alarmingly low (13 years). This project will explore the use and effectiveness of interactive storytelling, gamification and artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver targeted cybersafety messaging for early adopters (ages 8 yrs to 14 yrs) with the aim of developing safe online behaviours and habit formation.

Isolated yet close: A privacy-preserving mechanism for calculating social trust
The recent pandemic has highlighted the need for reliable contact tracing and social distancing. The social media data of individuals can help to build an index that can help to identify the activities of close contacts. This project will develop a privacy-preserving mechanism to capture and analyse individual personal information and build a social trust factor that can be used for establishing trust and credibility in a physical world. The socio-legal contributions of this project focus on trust-building in international and domestic institutions, as well as developing our understanding of privacy related harms.

Ethical frameworks for emerging cyber technologies
The development of new cybersecurity technologies such as security automation (using AI), blockchain, self-sovereign identity (SSI) and post-quantum security lack guidance from an ethical and responsible innovation perspective. This project aims to develop actionable ethical frameworks that can advance consensus-based ‘ethical by design’ development, use and innovation of emerging cyber technologies at both the macro and meso-levels. The project will develop responsible research and innovation (RRI)approaches to interdisciplinary and collaborative projects developing new technologies.

Cultural development and building an appreciation of a positive cyber security management environment in business
The observed reality is that the positional lifespan in industry of CSOs /CSIOs is believed to equate on average to 24 months indicating a cultural problem within and across the industry. This project will undertake an attitudinal and ethical research investigation that explores both board and executive levels in organisations to draw out their respective attitudinal views on the cultural aspects, the appreciation afforded to the work undertaken and the value placed on remaining cyber secure or recovery in a major breach circumstance.

Data after death: Responsible innovation of digital legacy services
The introduction of digital legacy services allows users to nominate a trusted contact who can access their personal information posthumously. Such services raise questions of data privacy and ethics as the trusted contact will receive access to photos, notes and other data that might compromise the privacy of other individuals. This project will investigate the responsible innovation of digital legacy services and develop new understanding of the social and legal implications of this emerging technology.

Automated surveillance in workplaces: reshaping work, performance, and risk
The pervasive movement towards automated surveillance to shape work and performance has gone largely unseen and therefore unchallenged. In response, this project considers how digital infrastructures radically shift expectations of professionalism; related cybersecurity concerns of growing third-party metadata repositories on employees without active consent, consultation, or transparency of data use and sharing; and the repercussions for risk and organisational culture. The project seeks to provide legal and regulatory recommendations to govern workplace surveillance practices.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Friday 15 April 2022


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,900 per annum tax exempt (2022 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate
  • International students only:  Tuition fees offset for the duration of 4 years. Single Overseas Student Health Cover policy for the duration of the student visa.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

How to apply

Interested candidates should email CSRI with a copy of their curriculum vitae and transcripts. If you are successful you will be invited to apply.


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Prof Robin Doss or Dr Rolando Trujillo

Prof Robin Doss
Email Prof Robin Doss
+61 3 9251 7305

Dr Rolando Trujillo
Email Dr Rolando Trujillo
+61 3 9246 8081