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New Cyber Centre to Boost Awareness of Digital Harms

Ross Kelly


cyber centre

Researchers will work closely with industry partners to explore ways of improving digital privacy and reducing online harms.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh are set to take part in a new cybersecurity centre aimed at improving online safety.

The Research Centre on Privacy, Harm Reduction and Adversarial Influence Online (REPHRAIN) will look to explore some of the harms people are exposed to online, as well as promote increased privacy and safety measures.

Led by the University of Bristol, the centre is part of an £8.6 million initiative supported by £7m in funding from UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Priorities Fund.

REPHRAIN will bring together experts from a host of universities throughout the UK, including Edinburgh, Bath, UCL and King’s College London.

Researchers will work closely with partners in industry, the third sector and policymakers to develop new measures aimed at boosting privacy and security online.

Dr Tariq Elahi, Lecturer in Security and IoT at the School of Informatics, will co-lead a project to develop a Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) Testbed and a Citizens Advice Bureau.

This will see researchers from the School of Informatics and Edinburgh College of Art develop a ‘world-first’ platform that assesses the effectiveness of online security measures.

Commenting on the project, Elahi said: “I am thrilled to co-lead one of REPHRAIN’s three missions.

“Working with our industrial and academic partners, our research will address the tensions between designing and deploying PETs at scale and mitigating their potential to inflict harm towards individuals and society at large.”

He added: “Our multi-disciplinary team will use its expertise to produce shared tools and resources to populate the REPHRAIN toolbox – a shared knowledge base on what works and what does not for online harms mitigation.”

Other REPHRAIN teams will develop a map to assist the public, policymakers and researchers when dealing with privacy and online harm issues.

Researchers said the guide will act as a ‘blueprint’ for the future certification of online services or products.


Professor Awais Rashid, Professor of Cyber Security at University of Bristol and Director of REPHRAIN, said: “The urgency of new scientific advances to protect citizens from a variety of harms without stifling data-driven innovation is highlighted by the Covid-19 crisis.

“We have a pressing need for data-sharing to track and contain the pandemic, whilst preserving privacy and preventing the spread of disinformation through global-scale social networks.

“It’s a challenge that spans all areas of our lives and one that we are ready to tackle, by bringing together the greatest minds in the country, across a whole range of disciplines.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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