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Using GANs for Attack-Defense Tree Construction: The Case of Automotive Threat Modelling

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, March 23, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship, in the areas of Generative Adversarial Networks, Threat modelling, and Automotive cybersecurity.

Enumerating the attack surface of modern cyber-physical systems is a substantial challenge, given (i) the volume of interfaces and associated configurations that could be exploited, (ii) the complexity offered by system behaviours that could be subverted for advancing an attack goal, and (iii) the nature of component integration making it difficult to systematically evaluate security at a system-level. While attack-defense trees are a useful modelling method, constructing such models is still largely manual, or rule-driven (which means generating such rules remains an arduous task).

Current methods to overcome this are either limited to a very high level of abstraction or narrow down to singular interfaces (and even then completeness could not be guaranteed given expert-driven knowledge).

This is a significant problem given the current explosion in the use of connected and digital components on modern automotive platforms, be it in-cabin or external components/interfaces. An AI-driven approach holds the potential to significantly overcome such a challenge, given the obscure nature of security threats (which could evade human intuition when it comes to threat assessment), the volume and diversity of attack vectors, and efficiency gains to be had from an expert-in-the-loop intelligent approach supported by an AI framework.

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 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 3.5 years

• a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)
• Experimental, modelling or analytical experience
• Knowledge and/or experience in the subject of hardware or software testing
• Good general knowledge of security
• Experience of (or a willingness to quickly learn about) vehicle systems

For further details see:

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact

To apply on line please visit: . Before completing the application please contact Jeremy Bryans (Hyperlink to new a email to PI email address and cc’ing ) for an initial informal discussion about the opportunity.

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Eligibility: UK/EU graduates with the required entry requirements

Start date: May

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

Interview dates: will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

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