Feja is a post-doctoral research associate working on the EPSRC funded PETRAS project located at STEaPP, UCL.
Can you briefly describe what your research project is about?
My research focuses on issues relating to the Internet of Things (IoT), security and governance. The world is becoming increasingly dependent on the IoT for the functioning and delivery of critical services like health, banking, transport and energy. This is a situation that is only going to increase and in doing so become more complex to manage effectively without undermining security and established privacy rights.
In my research I initially focused on how established international governance mechanisms, both multilateral and multistakeholder, have approached the novel security issues that the IoT raises. I am now taking the research forward to focus on the introduction of the IoT into the maritime sector, focusing primarily on ‘smart’ ports.
The maritime sector is experiencing a radical transformation with new digital technologies being incorporated into ships, logistics and ports. Drivers behind this change include the sector trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to not only mitigate climate change but also to improve air quality in port cities. Understanding the security challenges this radical technological transformation will pose for the maritime sector is necessary so that appropriate legal and governance responses can be developed.
The difficulty is that this is all happening very quickly. It is becoming apparent that some of the regulatory tools we have traditionally relied on to deliver governance objectives may no longer actually be reliable. The IoT is not only the object of governance but is rapidly becoming integral to the design of new governance models. Lawyers and policy makers need to understand the challenges so they can effectively create a regulatory approach that ensures the security and well-being of people and the environment.
How is your research different from other research on the Internet of Things?
A great deal of the research on IoT governance issues focuses on the consumer aspects including standards, labelling, behavioural psychology, ethics, data protection and privacy rights. My research is specifically on critical infrastructure systems: transport, energy, ecosystems and communication. These are often not just domestic problems as many have a public goods dimension to them that transcends the usual regulatory boundaries. I am exploring how concepts used to tackle other global public goods issues, such as climate change, chemical and nuclear waste management for example, could be applied to IoT governance contexts. I am researching how the concept of polycentric governance could be used to mobilise and build trust and cooperation across multiple agents who shape the IoT ecosystem. In the research I have focused on the UN Paris Agreement on climate change as an example of an evolving polycentric governance system at the start of the 21st century.
What are you working on at the moment to prepare you for the next stage of the project?
I am developing a research plan to take our work on the IoT, security and ports forward. I will be comparing the strategies to develop smart ports in the UK, Netherlands and Singapore. In January 2019 the UK government launched the Maritime 2050: Navigating the Future. Digitalisation is a key component in the government’s strategy. This is a particularly historic moment in the UK with the country leaving the European Union. The government is keen to learn lessons from the innovators in incorporating IoT into the maritime sector so it can become a leader itself in the new phase in its history in the world. The IoT, port and security research will contribute to a greater understanding of what the challenges are for the UK and how it can best learn from others.
Given the pace of change in this sector, research that contributes to understanding the challenges will be valuable to all those involved. Getting the future of the maritime sector right will be important for addressing the challenges of climate change, sustainable development and improving the vitality of the ocean ecosystem as a whole.
Our previous featured researchers:
- Sneha Dawda
I recently started working at STEaPP as a Research Assistant on a project led by Dr Madeline Carr, working alongside Dr Alex Chung on delivering a map of the UK cybersecurity policy community. The focus of the ECSEPA project is really understanding why policy makers formulate cybersecurity policy in the way they do. When we think about what the project is unearthing, it quickly becomes apparent we have to define what the cybersecurity policy landscape actually looks like in the first place. The mapping project, the focus of my research, is doing exactly this.
By using innovative software and visual graphics I've been creating the map of the UK cybersecurity policy community, consulting policymakers and academics on the accuracy, utility, and core concept. Two months into the map, it's definitely as complex and mind-boggling as you can imagine! However, the genuinely exciting aspect of this project is the potential to facilitate more efficient collaboration across Government and bring cybersecurity policymaking to an audience as an invaluable visual tool.
My background in research and education made this project a perfect fit for my interests, and it helps that I get to talk to some incredible people working in and outside of government. I have a BScEcon(Hons) in International Politics from Aberystwyth University and an MA in Global Security from the University of Sheffield. Whilst both my degrees sound broad, my desire to shape my research towards cyber politics is reflected in both of my theses.
For my Bachelor's thesis, I wrote on the Foucauldian construction of the US Surveillance State using the Edward Snowden's revelations as the catalyst for the privacy versus security debate. At Master's level, I wrote a genealogy of the internet to highlight the militaristic undertones it was created in that are currently shaping our concepts of warfare and espionage today. My areas of cyber politics research are embedded in securitisation, militarisation, warfare, and espionage. In the future I hope to continue my research in cybersecurity and pursue the constant challenges that cyberspace is presenting to Government and society.
- Dr Alex Chung
- Dr Alex Chung
Dr Alex Chung is a Research Associate working on the EPSRC-funded project, 'Evaluating Cyber Security Evidence for Policy Advice' (ECSEPA), led by Dr Madeline Carr, Associate Professor of International Relations and Cyber Security and Programme Leader of Digital Technologies and Public Policy (MPA) at STEaPP.
Can you briefly describe what ECSEPA is about?
ECSEPA seeks to understand the challenges faced by UK policymakers working in cybersecurity and how we can support them in the policy process. We do this by looking at how they engage with evidence used for policymaking in cybersecurity through interviews and an online survey. Later this year, we will explore how policymakers make operational and strategic decisions during a table-top policy game using simulated cybersecurity crisis scenarios.
How is ECSEPA different to other research projects in cybersecurity?
Studies in cybersecurity research investigating the human factor often focus on end users. Our project, however, examines issues surrounding the policy process, an aspect of human dimension that's rarely addressed.
Our project is also unique as it embodies STEaPP's 'mode of research' - interdisciplinary research that tackles real-world challenges through co-design, co-production, and action research by engaging with policy actors.
What do you find exciting about this project?
Being a part of a cutting-edge research project that will lead to real-world impact on governance policy, education, skills training and more is a huge privilege and goal of mine. Creating impactful research that is used and appreciated is a central aim in my career and having the opportunity to fulfil this through ECSEPA is brilliant. We are already seeing how our project is well-received across the UK Government and how it's generating positive influence.
For instance, several Government Departments have expressed interest in working with us to further extend the ECSEPA Mapping Exercise (undertaken by dedicated STEaPP Research Assistant Ms Sneha Dawda) by building capabilities that would allow it to be sustained and implemented as an internal tool for staff training and briefing within departments, and externally showcased to the public as an interactive educational resource.
We are confident that upon its completion, the research impact produced by ECSEPA in terms of its reach and significance will go well beyond academia.
What are you working on now to prepare for the next stage of the project?
We are now gearing up for the online survey to be sent out to policymakers and we will soon be working on building the policy crisis game. We are carrying out these tasks with our project partners in Coventry University where our project technical expertise is based. Professor Siraj Shaikh (project Co-Investigator) and Mr Atif Hussain (Research Assistant) have been developing an quantitative assessment model to evaluate the perceptions of cybersecurity evidence quality using qualitative metrics. This model will play a central role in the game design, including how we go about selecting evidence sources and fabricating evidence content for our fictitious cybersecurity crisis scenarios. Watch this space as our project is about to get very exciting!