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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N020111/1
Title: COMMANDO-HUMANS: COMputational Modelling and Automatic Non-intrusive Detection Of HUMan behAviour based iNSecurity
Principal Investigator: Li, Dr S
Other Investigators:
Rusconi, Dr P P
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
National Research Foundation Singapore NICTA
Department: Computing Science
Organisation: University of Surrey
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2016 Ends: 30 April 2018 Value (£): 208,100
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Artificial Intelligence Cognitive Psychology
Human-Computer Interactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
14 Oct 2015 Singapore-UK Cyber Security Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project addresses mainly the Human Factors challenge of the joint Singapore-UK call, and it has an interdisciplinary team with expertise in cyber security, cognitive psychology, and human-computer interface (HCI). It aims at producing direct evidence that human behaviour related insecurity can be detected automatically by applying human cognitive models to model and simulate humans involved in security systems. A key outcome of the project will be a working software system that can be used for this purpose by researchers and practitioners. The project will focus on human user authentication systems as a representative use case and will produce new knowledge on the role of human behaviours in such systems and security systems in general. Both the software framework and new knowledge on human behaviours can also help address other challenges of the call (e.g., detection of intruders/extremists requires knowledge on how they behave; protection of user privacy require knowledge on how human users handle personal data; policy makers need to understand behaviours of their organisations' employees and human attackers targeting their organisations to make more informed decisions).

It has been well known that human factors are a very important aspect of cyber security, as recognised by governments all over the world e.g., in the UK Cyber Security Strategy (2011), in Singapore's National Cyber Security Masterplan 2018 (2013), and in the US Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan (2011). Human related insecurity is often related to intended or unintentional (maybe subconscious) insecure human behaviours. To conduct research on human behaviours (in cyber security, HCI, psychology and other related fields), researchers normally depend on involvement of real human users via surveys, interviews, simulated scenarios, observations of real cases, interactive games, or other specially designed user studies. Such approaches are often time-consuming and costly, and suffer from other issues like limited and/or biased samples, questionable ecological validity, difficulties in reproducing results, and impossibility of running some studies due to ethical/privacy/legal concerns.

This project aims at developing the first (to the best our knowledge) general-purpose computational framework and supporting software tools that will enable automatic detection of human behaviour related insecurity at the HCI level without the need to involve real human users. The framework will be built on computational models of human cognitive processes, HCIs, human behaviour related attacks and (in)security measures. The framework will be non-intrusive: instead of evaluating the running system itself, the framework will evaluate an abstract executable model of the system and humans involved. Removing real human users from the process allows faster and more objective inspection of potential insecurity of a given security system. The automated process can still be combined with traditional user studies to make better use of limited resources in automatically detecting potential insecurity problems deserving further manual analysis.

The framework and software tools developed will be of great value for cyber security researchers, security system designers/developers and security industry to deliver securer systems to end users. As a natural byproduct, they will also allow easier evaluation of usability of security and non-security related computer systems with an HCI. As we mentioned above in this summary, people having concerns on other challenges of the call can benefit from the project's outcomes as well.

In this project we will focus mainly on HCI-level ("micro") human behaviours, but possible extensions to higher-level ("macro") behaviours (e.g., how human users adapt their behaviours over time via rehearsals and learning) will be looked at as well to pave the way for our future research.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.surrey.ac.uk