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  Establishing IoT Reputation Systems: Sociotechnical Challenges to Securing Transnational IoT Value Networks


   Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP)

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  Dr Jesse Sowell  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

UCL STEaPP is looking for PhD applications (including a 2-page proposal) on the topic of ‘Establishing IoT Reputation Systems: Sociotechnical Challenges to Securing Transnational IoT Value Networks’.

Ongoing development of the Internet of Things (IoT) promises revolutionary socioeconomic innovations in domains ranging from healthcare, public transport, energy management, and home automation, to name but a few. Despite substantive adoption of the IoT, effective security and safeguards are a low priority in the global IoT value network. Securing the IoT as a complex system-of-systems, comprising not just IoT devices themselves, but the connectivity and supporting cloud infrastructure, is a distinctly sociotechnical problem that must address interdependent technical, economic, and policy challenges. Interdependencies include innovation life cycles that focus on minimal viable products with equally minimal security safeguards, the challenges of developing common IoT security standards, and, most importantly here, coordinating domestic and transnational information sharing institutions necessary to mitigate emerging vulnerabilities and threats.

The broad objective of this PhD project is to model and develop an IoT security governance regime that can effectively monitor and characterize the efficacy and tractability of IoT security practices. One of the key focus areas in this project is exploring systematic models and standards for what it means for actors in the IoT value network to have a reputation for consistent and effective IoT security practices. The overarching socio-technical questions driving this project are:

  1. What are the incentives and barriers to effectively monitoring and characterizing IoT device behaviors necessary to systematically distinguish effective IoT security practices from those practices that have led to vulnerabilities and compromises?
  2. How should evidence of these challenges and barriers be collected and communicated to industry and policy stakeholders critical to systematically identifying and remediating emerging IoT threats and vulnerabilities?

The PhD candidate addressing these challenges will develop and execute a research programme that comprises topics such as:

  • developing a typology of actors and incentives in the global IoT value network, integrating interviews for empirical validity
  • surveying the literature on the efficacy and tractability of ex post reputation indicators for digital security vis a vis ex ante security safeguards
  • surveying the literature on secure and trustworthy systems, integrating political and economic factors
  • building on technical feasibility, characterize the political and economic parameters that will shape the development of an ex post reputation regime for IoT security
  • exploring the potential for real world implementations of such a system in the UK and/or other jurisdictions
  • evaluating how these kinds of indicators can reduce uncertainty in IoT security, and strategies for communicating these implications to both industry and government stakeholders

The ideal candidate should have a demonstrated interest in the governance of sociotechnical systems, with a firm background in Internet technologies, transnational governance regimes, and both qualitative and quantitative methods. The successful candidate should be a self-starter, capable of executing on research milestones on their own, as well as in collaboration with other researchers and academic staff. Excellent professional team communication and coordination skills are essential. The successful candidate will be working with, and building on, the work of the broader network of researchers in the PETRAS Centre for the Cybersecurity of IoT Systems. Alongside interdisciplinary academic staff in STEaPP, depending on the direction the research programme takes, the candidate may be working with engineering and policy researchers affiliated with the PETRAS Centre at UCL, as well as potential collaborations at Imperial College, University of Oxford, Lancaster University, and University of Warwick.

How to Apply

This studentship is available starting from September 2022. Applicants should submit their application using the UCL postgraduate study application form (see web site) and mark for the attention of Dr Jesse Sowell, Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy. For further information, interested candidates may contact Dr Sowell ([Email Address Removed]) with a covering letter and a CV (including marks/grades achieved on current courses).


Computer Science (8) Economics (10) Information Services (20) Politics & Government (30)

Funding Notes

Eligibility: Home or Overseas
Award Start Date: September 2022
Duration of Award: 4 years
Amount: £24,122
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