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Professor Pete Burnap

Professor Pete Burnap

Professor of Data Science & Cybersecurity

School of Computer Science and Informatics

Media commentator


I am Professor of Data Science & Cybersecurity in the School of Computer Science & Informatics. I am Director of the Cardiff Centre for Cyber Security Research, which is recognised as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research (ACE-CSR) by the National Cyber Security Centre and EPSRC.

I have been involved in grants worth in excess of £23m, leading large awards from EPSRC, ESRC and industry on the topic of cyber security analytics – the fusion of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and risk. 

My work, developed in collaboration with key partners and collaborators, focusses on the development of novel approaches to automated cyber defence. Examples include the development of the first peer reviewed approach to machine-learning based prediction of cyber attack behaviour, within seconds of its execution. Subsequent work focussed on how to capture and kill the computational processes behind the cyber attack. In the case of Ransomware, our method reduced file encryption by 92%. This work is also applicable in the context of critical national infrastructure - including industrial control systems of the kind that operate manufacturing and energy systems.

In addition to AI approaches for enhanced cybersecurity, I put a great deal of emphasis on interrogating the potential harms of AI if inappropriately deployed - i.e. without thorough verification or long-term management. In this context, I have pioneered work in the security of AI in the context of cyber defence. Examples include understanding how attackers can manipulate their behaviour to evade detection by AI-based cyber defence techniques. We have demonstrated the vulnerabilities of AI-based cyber defences, and how to improve the resilience of AI-driven cyber defences in an IoT context as well as for safety critical industrial control systems.

We have also shown that the performance of machine learning models must be subject to enhanced interrogation over time. For example, our work has demonstrated that while data-driven cyber defence approaches work well in lab conditions, they can perform poorly in real-world settings.  Moreover, we demonstrated that machine learning models can actually be using "hidden" features within the data used to train them to make decisions - such as malware being detected by its evasive behaviour rather than its actual malicious payload.

I believe research should be driven by real-world problems. I led AI for cybersecurity research at Airbus Cyber Innovation on a part-time secondment basis from 2016 to 2021, and I am still heavily invovled with Airbus' research agenda. I am director of Airbus' only global Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Analytics. This has led to advanced malware detection algorithms as well as novel models for goal-oriented risk assessment being integrated into the business. Since 2012 we have established an interdisciplinary research team of technical and social researchers. Our collaborative projects have received more than £5m in funding from UK Research Councils (EPSRC, ESRC), Welsh Government (Endeavr Wales) and Industry (Airbus).

I lead the Safety Critical Systems theme in the £14m PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for Internet of Things Systems Cybersecurity, led out of UCL.

I was previously co-director of the WEFO-funded Data Innovation Accelerator (DIA) – a £3.75m investment in upskilling SMEs in South Wales to develop innovative AI-driven products and services.

I sit on the UK Government's AI Council, advising on the implementation of the industrial strategy in AI and the Data Economy.

I also have a strong interest in socio-technical security and the understanding of risks to society from cyber-enabled systems. I work very closely with the Criminology team at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences. We have pioneered innovation in AI for the modelling and understanding of risks to social safety and security in online social networks (e.g. production and propagation of cyber hate speech, suicidal ideation and malicious Web links). We have developed methods to understand the emotional factors contributing to propagation of harmful content, as well as network modeling methods to support the management of online harms. This research is organised under the banner of the Social Data Science Lab and HateLab within which I am a director and the computational lead. The Labs' core funding comes from ESRC and forms part of the £64m ‘Big Data Network’

ACM Keywords: Security and Protection; Human-centered computing; Modeling structured, textual and multimedia data; Data mining; Machine learning


















  • Burnap, P. et al. 2005. Worldwide messaging support for high performance real-time collaboration. Presented at: 4th UK e-Science Programme All Hands Meeting, Nottingham, UK, 19-22 September 2005 Presented at Cox, S. J. and Walker, D. W. eds.Proceedings of the 4th UK e-Science Programme All Hands Meeting. Swindon: EPSRC pp. 395.
  • Burnap, P., Gray, W. A., Miles, J. C. and Rana, O. F. 2005. A service oriented infrastructure to facilitate trust in collaborative working. Presented at: 4th UK e-Science Programme All Hands Meeting, Nottingham, UK, 19-22 September 2005 Presented at Cox, S. J. and Walker, D. W. eds.Proceedings of the 4th UK e-Science Programme All Hands Meeting. Swindon: EPSRC pp. 346.
  • Rana, O. F., Hilton, J. C., Joita, L., Burnap, P., Pahwa, J. S., Miles, J. C. and Gray, W. A. 2005. Secure virtual organisations: Protocols and requirements. Presented at: Information Security Solutions Europe (ISSE) 2005 - The Independent European ICT Security Conference and Exhibition, Budapest, Hungary, 27-29 September 2005 Presented at Paulus, S., Pohlmann, N. and Reimer, H. eds.ISSE 2005 - Securing Electronic Business Processes: Highlights of the Information Security Solutions Europe 2005 Conference. Berlin: Springer pp. 422-432.
  • Burnap, P., Pahwa, J. S., Joita, L., Gray, W. . A., Rana, O. . F. and Miles, J. C. 2005. Grid based E-procurement. Proceedings of the ASCE, pp. 1-11. (10.1061/40794(179)156)


To date I have been involved in more than 33 research grants, amounting to over £23 million (FEC), with over £10m of this coming to Cardiff University. Funding has been secured from a variety of sources including UKRI (EPSRC/ESRC/InnovateUK), JISC, US Department of Justice, UK DoH, and industry partners (e.g. Airbus, Admiral). I was/am currently Principal Investigator on 16 of these grants (including a £1.8m EPSRC grant on secure ‘Factories of the Future’). 

Selected grants include:
Cyber Range and Immersive Cyber Attack Environment (research infrastructure)
• Funded by HEFCW
• £1,272,000 (Burnap)
Demystifying AI for Cybersecurity
• Funded by InnovateUK (/w Airbus)
• £394,784 (Burnap)
• Funded by EPSRC
• £290,291 to CU (Burnap, Perera et al.)
Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research (ACE-CSR)
• Funded by EPSRC
• £64,989 (Burnap)

PACE: Privacy-aware cloud ecosystems
• Funded by EPSRC
• £757,817 (Rana, Theodorakopoulos, Burnap)
Data innovation accelerator
• Funded by ERDF
• £3,553,220 (funded at 52%) (Burnap & Whitaker)

How Online Technologies are Transforming Transnational Organised Crime (Cyber-TNOC)
• Funded by ESRC

• £352,862 (Levi, Giommoni, Williams, Burnap)
Hate crime after Brexit: Linking terrestrial and new forms of data to inform governance
• Funded by ESRC
• £253,041 (Williams, Burnap, Sloan)

New Industrial Systems: Chatty Factories
• Funded by EPSRC
• £1,805,111 (Burnap, Murray-Rust, Richards, Preston, Branson)

Identifying Attack Vectors for Network Intrusion via IoT devices Developing a Goal-Oriented Approach to Determining Impact Across Threat Surfaces (IoT Depends)
• Funded by EPSRC PETRAS Hub
• £136,205 (Burnap)

SCADA Cyber Security Lifecycle (SCADA-CSL) 2
• Funded by Foundation Wales – Welsh Government and Airbus Innovations.
• £760,000 (Burnap, Cherdantseva and Theodorakopolous)

Centre for Cyberhate Research & Policy: Real-Time Scalable Methods & Infrastructure for Modelling the Spread of Cyberhate on Social Media
• Funded by ESRC
• £781,243 (Williams & Burnap)

Social Data Science Lab – Methods and Infrastructure Development for Open Data Analytics in Social Research
• Funded by ESRC
• £705.050 (Burnap, Williams, Sloan & Rana)

Understanding Online Hate Speech as a Motivator for Hate Crime
• Funded by National Institute for Justice, US Department of Justice
• £683,152 (Williams & Burnap in partnership with Rand US & Europe)

Event Detection using Open Source Communications
• Funded by Endeavr Wales
• £973,760 (Burnap & Williams in partnership with Airbus Endeavor Wales)

SCADA Cyber Security Lifecycle (SCADA-CSL)
• Funded by Foundation Wales – Welsh Government and Airbus Innovations
• £1,250,000 (Jones, Burnap, Blyth & Stoddart)

Identifying and Modelling Victim, Business, Regulatory and Malware Behaviours in a Changing Cyberthreat Landscape
• Funded by EPSRC under the Global Uncertainties Consortia for Exploratory Research in Security (CEReS) call
• £1,200,000 (Rana, Burnap, Williams, Levi, Matthews, Clarke, Furnell, Ganis, Rajarajan & Wall)

Improving Driver Risk Modeling with Big Data Analytics
• Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Admiral Insurance
• £378,648 (Burnap)

Investigating the link between social media activity and reporting crime
• Funded by Metropolitan Police Service Centre for Scientific and Engineering Excellence
• £49,950 (Burnap & Williams)

Estimating the Propagation of Anti-Semitic Content on Twitter
• Funded by Community Security Trust and the Lewis Trust Group
• £35,000 (Williams & Burnap)

Impact Acceleration Award – Embedding Open Source Intelligence Analytics within the Metropolitan Police Service
• Funded by ESRC
• £25,000 (Burnap, Williams, Rana & Sloan)

Evaluating the Utility of Social Media Analytics for International Development
• Funded by Department for International Development
• £7,500 (Williams & Burnap)

Impact Acceleration Award – Assessing the Market Interest in Big Social Data Analytics
• Funded by EPSRC
• £7,500 (Burnap, Williams, Rana & Sloan)

Digital Wildfire: (Mis)information flows, propagation and responsible governance
• Funded by ESRC (Global Uncertainties)
• £196,333 (Jirotka, Burnap, Williams, Rana, Procter, Housley, Edwards & Stahl)

Detecting Tension and Cohesion in Local Communities with Social Media
• Funded by Airbus Group
• £51,040 (Rana, Burnap, Sloan & Williams)

Social Media and Prediction: Crime Sensing, Data Integration & Statistical Modelling
• Funded by ESRC under the NCRM Methods Innovation Call
• £194,138 (Williams, Burnap, Sloan, Rana, Housley, Edwards, Procter & Voss)

Hate Speech and Social Media: Understanding Users, Networks and Information Flows
• Funded by ESRC and Google
• £124, 986 (Housley, Williams, Burnap, Edwards, Rana, Procter, Voss & Knight)

Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities: A Demonstration of COSMOS
• Funded by ESRC
• £97,506 (Williams, Rana, Avis, Housley, Edwards & Burnap)

The 2016 Welsh Election Study: A Study of the 2016 Election to the National Assembly for Wales
• Funded by ESRC
• £257,148 (Scully, Jones, Cutts, Sloan, Burnap & Williams)

Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities: A Demonstration of COSMOS
• Funded by ESRC
• £97,506 (Williams, Rana, Avis, Housley, Edwards & Burnap)

Public perceptions of the UK food system: public understanding and engagement, and the impact of crises and scares
• Funded by ESRC and the Food Standards Agency
• £291,200 (Roberts, Dowler, Draper, Sloan, Williams & Burnap)

Understanding the Role of Social Media in the Aftermath of Youth Suicides
• Funded Department of Health
• £200,000 (Scourfield, Burnap, Williams, Housley & Edwards)

Scaling the Computational Analysis of “Big Social Data” & Massive Temporal Social Media Datasets
• Funded by High Performance Computing Wales
• £45,000 (Burnap, Rana, Sloan & Williams)

Small items of research equipment at Cardiff University
• Funded by EPSRC
• £620,000 (Burnap)

Supporting Empirical Digital Social Research for the Social Sciences with a Virtual Research Environment
• Funded by JISC
• £55,519 (Burnap, Williams, Housley, Rana, Edwards & Avis)

Requirements Analysis for Social Media Analysis Research Tools
• Funded by ESRC
• £5,000 (Burnap, Rana, Avis, Williams, Housley & Edwards)

Sensing Data from the Web to Inform Probabilistic Risk Models. Funded by Welsh European Funding Office (Part of the Smart Operation for a Low Carbon Energy Region (SOLCER) project). £50,000

miConsent: Patient Controlled Access to Distributed Medical Records.
Funded by Technology Strategy Board with Abies Ltd and IMS Maxims. £54,000


Current supervision

Wafa Alorainy

Research student

Miah Thompson

Research student

Past projects

  • Dr. Matilda Rhode (Racing Demons: Malware Detection in Early Execution)
  • Dr. Eirini Anthi (Detecting and Defending against Cyber Attacks in a Smart Home Internet of Things Ecosystem)
  • Dr. Baskoro Adi Pratomo (Low-Rate Attack Detection with Intelligent Fine-Grained Network Analysis)
  • Dr. Luke Roach (“You had me there. Right up to the bit you were racist”: A Computer Mediated Discourse Analysis of Hate and Counter Speech in Social Media)
  • Dr. Arron Cullen (Police and Social Media in England And Wales: Exploring Police Communications and Image Work in the Digital Society)
  • Dr. Amir Javed (Understanding Malware Behaviour in Online Social Networks & Predicting Cyber Attacks)
  • Dr. Matthew Nunes (Self-Healing Approaches to Network Intrusion Detection) - EPSRC Scholarship
  • Dr. Taimur Al Said (Security of Virtual Machines in the Cloud)
  • Dr. Nasser Alsaedi (Mining Disruptive Events from Social Media)