University of Aberdeen scientists to study cyber attacks

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The way people respond to phishing emails and common cyber attacks will be the focus of a £1m university research project to improve online security.

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen are working to find ways to prevent hackers enticing people into downloading malware.

Recent large-scale incidents included one that affected the NHS across the UK, including Scottish health boards.

The researchers suggest hackers "exploit" certain human behaviour.

The scientists believe the main problem faced by big organisations is getting computer users to follow existing security policies.

The project will test how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and persuasion techniques can improve the way safety advice is followed.

'Human weakness'

The UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has awarded the research team £756,000 towards their Supporting Security Policy with Effective Digital Intervention project, which now has total funding of more than £1m.

Dr Matthew Collinson, who is the principal investigator on the project, said: "If we look at most cyber security attacks, there is a weakness relating to human behaviour that hackers seek to exploit.

"Their most common approach, and the one we are most familiar with, is the use of phishing emails to entice a user to download malware on to their computer.

"One of the main problems faced by companies and organisations is getting computer users to follow existing security policies, and the main aim of this project is to develop methods to ensure that people are more likely to do so."

The project coincides with the launch of a new masters degree in AI at the university.

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