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PhD Studentship (3 years) Defensive Cybersecurity Management: Continuous Breach Detection Service (CBDS) and Human Reconnaissance

Aston Business School

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Saturday 31 July 2021
Reference:  R210193
Release Date:  Wednesday 02 June 2021

Applications are invited for a three year Postgraduate studentship in the College of Business and Social Sciences, to be undertaken within the Cyber Security Innovation (CSI) centre at Aston University.  The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on cybersecurity defence. The studentship is offered in collaboration with by the CyberQ group, an industry partner of the CSI.

The position is available to start in either October 2021 or April 2022, subject to negotiation.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the home fees rate, plus a maintenance allowance of at least £15,609 (subject to eligibility). This studentship is only available to Home students.

Background to the Project

The PhD candidate will carry out research into Continuous Breach Detection Service (CBDS), Security Operations Centre (SOC) and Human Reconnaissance (Human Recon). 

Continuous Breach Detection Service monitors the external environment and provides a unique line of sight of an organisation’s online presence. By monitoring the surface, deep and dark web, it is possible listen for what’s being said about an organisation from outside and within, to check if account details are being shared, if intellectual property (IP) or data is at risk and if the organisation’s brand is being misused without their knowledge. 

The project will help develop novel methods to evaluate potential threats so that organisations can prioritise and co-ordinate their resources more effectively.

The PhD candidate will carry out research into dark web and deep web monitoring, compromised credentials available on the web and/or the dark web, mobile applications hosted on websites with poor reputations, social media monitoring and Threat Actor intelligence. The project is closely linked to the cutting edge recon techniques already in use at CyberQ and we would welcome new ideas to further the relevant research agenda, particularly in the areas of emergent technologies.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should hold the equivalent of a UK First or Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree from an approved university or higher education institution. They should also hold, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree with an overall weighted average of 60% in Computing, Machine Learning, Cybersecurity or Analytics. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of cybersecurity risk management frameworks, cryptography, UBA, ML/DL, network security, DLT/blockchain and programming languages. 

Submitting an application

Before submitting a formal application, candidates should contact Prof Vladlena Benson by email for a preliminary discussion: Suitable candidates will then be invited to formally apply. 

As part of the application, you will need to supply:

  • A copy of your current CV
  • Copies of your academic qualifications for your Bachelor degree, and Masters degree; this should include both certificates and transcripts, and must be translated in to English.
  • A research proposal statement*
  • Two academic references
  • Proof of your English Language proficiency

Details of how to submit your application, and the necessary supporting documents can be found here

Please select “Aston Business School Research Degree Programme” from the application form options.

*The application must be accompanied by a “research proposal” statement. An original proposal is not required as the initial scope of the project has been defined, candidates should take this opportunity to detail how their knowledge and experience will benefit the project and should also be accompanied by a brief review of relevant research literature.

Please include the supervisor name, project title and project reference in your Personal Statement.

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at 


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