Ministry of Defence scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) are on a mission to find innovations that will improve their understanding of cyberspace.

The Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) made a call for research proposals during an event at Reading Town Hall today, where cyber situational awareness strand technical lead Robert Pimblett highlighted the need for new analytical techniques that grasp the scale of cyberspace and the challenges of predicting events.

“The problem is to identify trends and significant events within a data set that is unfeasibly large for human processing but which must ultimately be presented to a decision maker. We’re therefore looking to develop systems that can process data and autonomously decide which elements are the most relevant to present to the user,” he said.

The DSTL will consider submissions from organisations of all sizes, from large universities to one-man operations. A total of £400,000 is available for successful research proposals, and successful applicants will also receive mentoring and project support from DSTL staff.

“Whilst we are looking for highly innovative and ground breaking ideas to offer operational benefit to UK Armed Forces, these must be broad in scope,” said Pimblett.

“We will not fund proposals that limit their scope and understanding of cyber situational awareness to only a small part of cyberspace for example, it should not just be detection of cyber threats, data mining, detection of the insider threat or network monitoring, in isolation.”

The DSTL has prioritised the following areas of research:

  • Enabling analysts and decision makers to mitigate the data deluge issues associated with operating in cyberspace to improve their understanding.
  • Improving the communication of the status of cyberspace to decision makers.
  • Predicting events in cyberspace, providing a level of confidence in a conclusion that enables decision makers to be proactive, rather than reactive, in their decision making.
  • Developing an understanding of events in cyberspace and the impact that subsequent decisions have on the resilience and robustness of the MOD enterprise.

DSTL said it is interested in proposals from the areas of mathematics and statistics, heuristic and deterministic methods, probabilistic modelling, information/data fusion, decision support, human factors including cognition and learning, computer science, systems analysis and socio-cultural understanding.

“Cyber threat is a tier one risk in the UK’s National Security Strategy, and a key challenge to MOD with its extensive, networked infrastructure and deployed operational forces,” said DSTL Cyber and Influence Science and Technology Centre leader Dario Leslie.

“The ability to understand and react to events in cyberspace in a timely and appropriate manner will be key to future success.”

Proposals must be submitted via the CDE portal by 5pm on Monday 29 October 2012.