Social Media and Cybercrime Expert
After my A-Levels, I faced the challenging question of what to study at university. One of the first topics that came to mind was computer science. Computing was not a topic I had the experience of studying before, but it was one that always piqued my interest; particularly the part about building cool applications! I was fortunate that my dad was in computing and could provide more insight into the area, and what exactly it meant to be a computer scientist. I also took the opportunity to speak to my teachers, and they felt that computing was a great choice especially because of my love for, and interest in maths.
Having spoken to numerous people, I decided to pursue my first university degree in Computer Science and Accounting (BSc) from the University of the West Indies in Barbados. Computer science was my core interest, but given the popularity of accounting – as an area of work – in my home country, I also opted to study that topic. After that, I worked for a year as a software developer (building computer programs/apps) then came to the UK to study for an MSc (Masters) in Internet Computing at the University of Hull. Once I completed my MSc, I returned to Barbados to apply my new skills in business.
After another short stint in industry, I felt the strong desire to continue my studies. This was motivated by my desire to learn more about the area of cyber security in business (this is a topic I touched on in my MSc). A year later, I returned to the UK to start a doctorate (PhD) at the University of Warwick in Computer Science, specialising in cyber security. This was a great experience as it allowed me to research the topic in great detail and to understand real problems that security professionals face.
(Here’s a video of me during my PhD giving an interview about why I was interested to speak to companies to understand how my skills could be applied in industry.)
Since then, I have been researching cyber security. First, this was at the University of Warwick as a Research Fellow, and then I moved to the University of Oxford (in Computer Science) to continue that role. That then brings us back to today, and thus completes – at least for now – my journey! I should also mention that when I’m not at work, I enjoy playing football, squash and chess! 🙂
My research on social media and cybercrime
As mentioned above, my area of work and expertise is cyber security. Working in this area involves considering all of the types of ways in which modern systems (e.g., your computer, mobile phone, smart TV) may be attacked, and seeking to create new and better techniques and tools to protect them.
While my research spans numerous topics, right now I’m really interested in social media and cybercrime (pretty cool, I know!).
In the social media space, a hot topic these days is fake news, and that’s one area where my research focuses. In particular, I am examining how computer systems can be designed that help to identify untrustworthy content and rumours on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. This could be used by law enforcement, officials that respond to crises, or members of the public (like you!).
The approach involves creating a computer program that can automatically assess each post (e.g., a tweet or Facebook post) according to a set of trust factors. You can think of factors as things such as: who is providing the message (identity), or whether the message is coming from someone you trust already (reputation), or even whether the message is supported by other messages (support). These are all criteria that we as humans use to judge whether or not to trust information. A key novel aspect is trying to develop a computer program that can make the same decisions as humans, and at a much faster pace than we can!
Cybercrime is another a key area in my research. Hackers, fraudsters and other cybercriminals use an array of techniques to compromise individuals online. To properly stop these actions, we – as researchers – need to understand how these techniques work, before we can begin to craft solutions to them. At this time, my research looks into the way that hackers use social media data to craft cyber-attacks. Through this research, we are building a model to enable us to examine how cybercriminals can use the types of information we share online, to conduct crimes against us.
If you are interested in finding out more about me and my research (including what my office looks like!), check out these links: