Cyber risk research recognised by world-leading insurers

1 December 2015

tab on computer showing Twitter URL

University researchers pick up award for developing new methods to detect malicious links on Twitter

Methods to detect the spread of malicious malware over social media, developed by researchers at the School of Computer Sciences & Informatics, have been recognised by one of the world’s leading experts in handling risk.

Lloyd’s, the world’s specialist insurance market, presented Dr Pete Burnap with the runner-up prize in the ‘Cyber Risk’ category during their annual ‘Science of Risk Prize’ awards ceremony on Friday (27 November).

The team, consisting of Dr Burnap, Amir Javed, Dr Shahzad Awan and Professor Omer Rana, were recognised for the innovative methods they have developed to identify cyber-attacks that are disguised as shortened URLs on Twitter.

The judges noted that the paper associated with the research “contained brilliant analysis and research” that “would be of excellent use to insurers as well as a wider benefit to society.”

The system developed by Dr Burnap’s team can identify potential cyber-attacks with up to 83% accuracy within five seconds and with up to 98% accuracy within 30 seconds when a user clicked on a URL posted on Twitter andmalware was executed on a device.

By analysing computer activity, it is hoped the new research could eventually help develop a real-time system capable of protecting Twitter and Facebook users. Dr Burnap and his colleagues hope to stress-test the system by analysing Twitter traffic during the European Football Championships next summer.

On receiving the award, Dr Burnap said: “We are very pleased to have our research recognised by one the world’s leading experts in handling risk and dealing with uncertainty. The government announced their aim to put in place innovative measures to strengthen UK cyber security in their recent national security strategy. We believe our work can contribute to the improved understanding of cyber risks for both commerce and government.”

The ‘Science of Risk Prize’, which is now in its sixth year and is designed to challenge researchers and insurers to stretch their thinking, was presented by Tom Bolt, Lloyd's Director of Performance Management.