PhD Studentship: Understanding Insider Threats with Natural Language Processing

Cranfield University - Cranfield Defence and Security

Centre: EWIC

Start Date: 5th February 2018
Duration of award: 3 years


Dr. Oliver Buckley – Lecturer in Centre for Electronic Warfare, Information and Cyber
Dr. Duncan Hodges – Lecturer in Centre for Electronic Warfare, Information and Cyber

Sponsored by DSTL, this studentship will provide a bursary of £17,000 p.a. (tax free) plus fees* for three years.


*The candidate would ideally be a UK national but EU nationals will be considered.  


This PhD will explore innovative, novel approaches to understanding and contextualising Insider Threats. This empirical approach will exploit recent advances in machine learning and natural language processing. The research is exciting and timely and has the potential to deliver real-world impact.

Main Copy:

Insider threats are an increasing problem to the security of systems, these are increasingly salient to the publice through high-profile cases such Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Reality Winner

The research will focus on:

  • Understanding the broader issues of both malicious and non-malicious (or accidental) insider threats.
  • Creating an automatic method for empirically modelling historical insider incidents, both in cyberspace and ‘real-world’.
  • Developing a common language and storage method to enable a deeper understanding of the events in order to provide actionable advice.

This is an applied piece of research allowing the student to both gain academic experience and experience of software development.

The student will be based at the Shrivenham Campus, the student will also be eligible to enrol for a HE teaching qualification and given the opportunity to gain teaching experience, although this is not mandatory.

This work is industrially sponsored with a generous tax-free stipend, international and national conference attendance and dedicated fund for a laptop. The student will be expected to both author journal papers and present at these conferences.

This studentship will follow a close collaboration with the studentship entitled ‘Agent-Based modelling of offensive actors in cyberspace’ also advertised at this time.

Entry requirements:

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline, such as computer science, engineering or related degree. The ideal candidate should have good software development skills (experience with Python or Java is desirable) and some practical experience of completing an applied project. An interest in Cyber Security, machine learning and an awareness of NoSQL technologies would be beneficial. The candidate should be self-motivated and have good communication skills (including written communication e.g. documenting research or work).

If English is not your first language, you should have an IELTS score of 7.0 or equivalent.

How to apply:

Candidates interested in this post should provide a cover letter containing a concise description of an applied project in which they have been involved along with their CV to Dr Oliver Buckley by email.

For further information please contact: Dr. Oliver Buckley, E:, T: (0) 1793 785478.

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