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Investigating Transport System Risks due to Cyber-Physical Security Threats

Institute for Future Transport and Cities

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Prof S Shaikh , Dr H Nga Nyguen No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship. The successful candidate will be joining the project ‘Investigating Transport System Risks due to Cyber-Physical Security Threats’ in the Systems Security Group at Coventry. This research group is part of the Advanced Systems cluster at the Institute of Future Transport and Cities (FTC) and is dedicated to transport-related cyber-physical systems security modelling, verification, analysis and testing.

The Institute of Future Transport and Cities at Coventry University has a unique position – with over 140 research staff and 125 PhD research students capitalising on our links with Coventry City and its status as a European Living Lab for transport and our close collaboration and joint initiatives with major commercial organisations. FTC brings together world class expertise in disciplines across art and design, human factors, engineering, manufacturing, computer systems and business studies to deliver our vision of “safe and sustainable transport solutions fit for the cities of the future”.

This research project is a collaboration between Coventry University and Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). The successful candidates have an opportunity to undertake part of the research project in Singapore at the Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) under A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP).

IHPC promotes and spearheads scientific advances and technological innovation through computational modelling, simulation and visualisation in order to solve major scientific, engineering and industry problems. In particular, researchers from the Computing Science department within the institute seek to develop software platforms in order to model, simulate and analyse large-scale and complex-coupled urban systems. Various state of the art technologies employed by the scientists and engineers include high performance, distributed and efficient computing, knowledge-based artificial intelligence as well as advanced complexity science and multi-scale models. Other research foci of the institute include mechanics and fluid dynamics, computational electronics and electromagnetics, computational materials and chemistry.

Project Details
Loss or disruption to transport systems, affecting, for example, autonomous vehicles control, jamming or manipulation of navigation – both plausible attacks on modern vehicles – have the potential to significantly affect both the scenarios above. Essentially, such ‘local risks’ to vehicle systems raise ‘global risks’ to the entire transport system. The objective of this research is to study such risks, where transport systems are modelled as complex systems with aspects of changes to (local) node behaviour affecting (global) system behaviour. Agent-based approaches to modelling traffic simulations provide a starting point to represent such environments, integrating transport system interactions and complexities with vehicular functional architectures. Analytical models are then be used to study emergent risks and system properties.

Some questions to be addressed in this doctoral research project include:
- How could we systematically risk assess vehicular security during the engineering process, to inform architectural and component choices? What local design and engineering, and supply chain procurement choices, lower overall risks?
- Economic risk assessment is crucial for insurance underwriters to serve the transport sector. How could such an assessment be better informed on system risks that arise due to local cyber-physical risks (arising out of vehicular functionality or vehicle-to-infrastructure elements)?

Funding Details
Coventry University and A*STAR jointly offer a fully-funded PhD studentship to UK/EU and international fee payers as part of the A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP). Each studentship will include:
- full tuition fees
- stipends for up to 4 years (c.a. £15000/year) depending on satisfactory progress
- a one-time airfare to and from Singapore
- a one-time settling-in allowance in Singapore
- medical insurance for the period in Singapore
- conference allowance.

Training and Development
The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.
All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry criteria for applicants to PhD
• A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area area (including but not limited to) Computer Science, Data Science, Cybersecurity, Ethical Hacking, Automotive Engineering, with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.


- the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 4 years
- a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)
- The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 4 years;
- Previous experience of modelling, programming and/or ethical hacking;
- Knowledge of statistical analysis, agent-based modelling and/or cybersecurity;
- Knowledge of related software (agent-based simulators, SPSS, hacking tools,…);
- Ability to think innovatively and critically analyse data and results;
- Good written and oral communication skills;
- A record of presenting papers at conferences and of publishing peer reviewed research papers (desired);
- Ability to meet deadlines, sometimes under pressure;
- Ability to work independently and also as part of a local and international multidisciplinary team;
- Willingness to take on roles to enhance research team activities and profile.

For further details see:

How to apply
To apply online please visit:

All applications require full supporting documentation, and a covering letter – plus one of the following:

• For pre-determined (named) projects a 2000-word supporting statement is required showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.
• For thematic opportunities a research proposal based within the selected theme/area of 3,000 words is required.

Start date: September 2020

Duration of study: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

To find out more about the project please contact Professor Siraj Shaikh at [Email Address Removed] , Dr Hoang Nga Nguyen ([Email Address Removed])
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