University of Bristol one of 11 institutions leading new government cybersecurity initiative


By Patrick Sullivan, Film & TV Editor

The University is part of a new joint academic and industry research project, PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for Internet of Things (IoT) Systems Cybersecurity.

The new work will follow on from a earlier stage of PETRAS, which stands for privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability, and security, collating work from the 11 universities and 110 industrial and governmental partners.

The National Centre is to be led by UCL, and supported by Bristol, Lancaster University, University of Oxford, University of Warwick, Cardiff University, University of Edinburgh, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, Newcastle University and the University of Nottingham.

The project aims to position the UK as one of the leading nations in tackling cyber threats. In particular, the focus of the work will be the Internet of Things and the growing capabilities of everyday products to be connected online.

IoT products are growing in popularity and the rising amount increases the risk of users’ data becoming vulnerable to cyber-threats. According to analyst firm Gartner, 8.4 billion devices worldwide were connected in 2017 and this is predicted to rise to 20.4 billion.

The PETRAS National Centre of Excellence announced will explore the use of edge computing in society, where processing and computing power is managed closer to the locality of use rather than in centralised data-processing warehouses. It will also explore how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies will impact on the internet and IoT networks.

Professor Awais Rashid, a cybersecurity expert from the Faculty of Engineering, said: ‘[IoT technologies and AI are] a central focus of our cyber security research at the University of Bristol and we are delighted to be a partner of the PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Systems Cybersecurity to collaborate with other research and industry organisations to ensure that such critical systems remain secure and hence, safe and undisrupted.’

"8.4 billion devices worldwide were connected in 2017 and this is predicted to rise to 20.4 billion."
According to a study and forecast by Gartner

Responding to questions on how the work linked with the security of the University’s own IT accounts, the University reiterated that it had ‘achieved Cyber Essentials certification and operates in line with National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) guidance.’

The announcement of the initiative comes four months after the University of Bristol was subjected to the largest and most sophisticated phishing attack it has ever faced’ on 4 December 2018. 450 University accounts were compromised and several thousands of students and staff received dangerous emails. The involvement in PETRAS was announced on 28 March, only three days before a more recent phishing attack was experienced by students and staff on 1 April, of which the scale and impact is still unknown.

While the research seeks to put the University at the forefront of cybersecurity, students and staff here in Bristol received an email from IT Services in the aftermath of the latest phishing attack telling them that their ‘continued vigilance to these attacks is the best form of defence’.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Bence Boros

For information on how to identify and deal with phishing emails, the University has the following information page:

If you recognise or have been a victim of a cyberattack, please contact the IT Service Desk via email at or phone on 0117 428 2100.

Are you worried about the rising cyber threats?

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Patrick Sullivan

Epigram Co-Editor-in-Chief 2019-20. Engineering student turned film critic turned news writer - enjoying the most brilliantly strange route into the media world.