New multi-million-pound centre to protect citizens online

Photo shows: Professor of Cyber Security at Bristol University, Awais Rashid
Professor of Cyber Security at Bristol Uni Awais Rashid,

The University of Bristol is to lead a team of the UK’s world-leading cyber security experts in the creation of a new £8.6 million centre to protect citizens online.

The interdisciplinary team includes experts from the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Edinburgh, King’s College London and UCL, across a wide range of fields including Computer Science, Law, Psychology and Criminology.

The digital sector is worth £400 million a day to the UK economy (7.7% of GVA) – growing six times faster than all other sectors combined. However, alongside the many positive benefits of a data-driven economy, serious challenges, such as privacy violations, micro-targeting of individuals, online abuse/victimisation, fraud and disinformation, have emerged.

REPHRAIN – Research Centre on Privacy, Harm Reduction and Adversarial Influence Online – will consolidate the UK’s considerable academic, industry, policy and third sector capabilities, and led by Bristol, will provide a single body to engage with government, industry and citizens.

Awais Rashid, Professor of Cyber Security at the University of Bristol and Director of REPHRAIN, said: “The Internet has provided a range of innovative ways to come together, share information and engage with each other across the globe. However, this large-scale information sharing has also highlighted a range of harms – from child abuse to hate campaigns and the spread of disinformation.”

“The urgency of new scientific advances to protect citizens from a variety of harms without stifling data-driven innovation is highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis. We have a pressing need for data-sharing to track and contain the pandemic, whilst preserving privacy and preventing spread of disinformation through global scale social networks.”

“It’s a challenge that spans all areas of our lives and one that we are ready to tackle, by bringing together the greatest minds in the country, across a whole range of disciplines,” said Professor Rashid.