Helping your Cyber Security Journey

by Alan Settery, SICSA Cyber Security Network Integrator
9 October 2017

As always Freshers week was full of enthusiasm and energy as students were welcomed across Scotland’s universities and now settle down to start their new computing science and cyber security courses.

It’s an exciting time to be involved and set out on this journey; technology is evolving at a fast pace and there are a lot of interesting areas to be involved in – from bit coins and block chain to artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous cars; from a raspberry pi and hackathons to the cloud, supercomputers and big data analytics. Of course cyber security needs to be considered in all of these areas and many more. We know the importance being digitally safe and secure plays in our day to day lives and the role industry has in dealing with cyber threats to our services and infrastructure.

Cyber UpdateRecently, some students may have attended the CyberFirst events held across universities – Edinburgh Napier University and University of Glasgow. These courses are organised by the National Cyber Security Centre and aimed at encouraging 11 – 17 year olds to the world of cyber security. It is worth noting that CyberFirst is a Student Bursary scheme which is available to first year students at university too – details are available and applications are usually open in April each year.

Interestingly Lockheed Martin have sponsored CyberFirst too.

For those of you with an interest in, but not already on a cyber security course, if would like to know more about the topic there is a free on-line Open University introduction through Future Learn. This covers, Threat landscape, Authentication, Malware, Networking & Comms, Cryptography, Network Security, Defences and Risks and could be a flexible way to understand more.

Did you know?

 – October is the raising Cyber Security awareness month in Europe and in the USA

At the Interface of Innovation


by Heather Alexander, Interface Marketing Manager
27 July 2017

Interface are delighted to be working with SICSA and involved in this year’s DemoFest to help promote the great work that is happening in Scottish universities across Informatics and Computer Sciences.

At Interface we connect organisations of all sizes, from all sectors, to the right academic expertise for increased research and development (R&D) activity leading to the creation and development of new products, services and processes.

Business-academic collaborations play a vital role supporting Scotland’s economy, enabling businesses to reach new markets, increase turnover and safeguard and create jobs. The impacts on society are far-reaching. Indeed, over the last 12 years the Interface team have facilitated over 2,470 business-academic opportunities, resulting in over 1,420 R&D projects.

Engaging with industry supports universities and academics by helping to; achieve impact with research, provide additional income to fund individuals and department activities, grow contacts and networks relevant to research, introduce students to industry to enhance employability and create commercial opportunities from facilities, equipment and off the shelf technologies.

The majority of organisations seeking academic expertise do so to fill a gap where they do not have in-house expertise. Ecometrica, an end-to-end environmental software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, and their collaboration with the School of Geoscience’s at the University of Edinburgh is a great example of this cross-disciplinary approach. The project tested the suitability of different earth observation (EO) satellite products for monitoring forest change both in the UK and Internationally. The benefits to the university will be felt in terms of its international research and innovation ranking, and its reputation in the fields of forest ecology and the application of space technology.

It is not just expertise and know-how services that companies can engage with, there is also a vast range of specialist facilities which can support industry. Hundreds of pieces of equipment and cutting edge facilities are used every day for scientific research throughout Scotland and are widely available for commercial use to help create, develop, test & analyse ideas and products. These specialist facilities combined with the academic and technical expertise are a very valuable solution for commercial business projects. You can see the types of Specialist Facilities that are available for commercial use here.

Interface helps to connect the contrasting worlds of business and academia, fulfilling the roles of translator and impartial broker to make connections which benefit the economy and Scotland as a whole.

SICSAConf2017: Discovering great things in Dundee!


I have discovered so many new things over the past two days at the SICSA PhD conference in Dundee.

First I learned a new word – smirry – which described the Dundonian weather – grey and a bit wet (I think).

Then I was inspired by our two PhD Conference keynote speakers. Chris van der Kuyl gave us tremendous insight about tech entrepreneurship. He asserted confidently that Scotland is the best place in the world, in terms of tech startups and adventurous Computer Science. Music to SICSA’s ears!

Mandy Chessell gave us a reflective talk on information management, with knowledge gleaned over decades of experience at IBM. My take-home message was that we should support collaborative open source endeavour, and learn from the past.

The PhD students attending the conference came from all of Scotland’s universities – from UHI in the north to UWS in the south-west. The engaging poster presentations and demos were fantastic. I spent so much time chatting with students over posters that I missed lunch today! We have four worthy winners for the poster/demo competition:

  • Sofiat Olaosebikan (Glasgow)
  • Xue Li (Edinburgh)
  • Andrei Boiko (Abertay)
  • Blessing Mbipom (Robert Gordon)

There were plenty of training sessions too – with topics like IBM Bluemix, Ethics, Teaching, Thesis Statements, Viva Survival, and Command-Line Hacking all under the spotlight. Students chose workshops that appealed to them – and all workshops were well-attended over the two days.

Finally, I enjoyed the local cuisine. In our jute conference bag, we each received a pot of Dundee Marmalade. I also ventured to the Tay Fry Inn for some delicious deep fried pizza and haggis. All in all, another brilliant SICSA PhD conference. Thanks to the SICSA staff, Rachel Menzies, Dundee Uni, and the student organizing committee for such a great time!




Highlight Your Talent with Company Connecting

by Jordan Watts, Marketing Manager at Company Connecting
24 April 2017

Company Connecting ImageCompany Connecting is a Scottish based platform designed to help IT companies and individuals working within IT to find one another, essentially facilitating the growth of the IT industry by improving accessibility. We have gathered all the data on Scottish IT companies with individual detail and analysis applied, and are currently working on companies in the rest of the UK. We use this highly detailed information to connect people and organisations both within and outwith the IT industry. Our ultimate aim is create a niche IT ecosystem which provides streamlined connections to promote excellence and create growth within information technology.

A crucial part of this work is the detailed and insightful content which we publish regularly in the form of blogs, articles, infographics, videos and whitepapers. Key to this publishing, is our ever popular Student/ Graduate series. This series focuses in on some of the brightest new talent in the areas of IT, Computing, Science and Business emerging from Scottish Universities.

Company Connecting attended a SICSA event back in 2016 and were inspired by the fantastic work going on within Informations and Computer Science by individuals from Scottish Universities. Ever since we have endeavoured to highlight SICSA through our regular Student and Graduates blog and are currently hoping to expand this further.

We are currently looking for more students and graduates involved with SICSA, and beyond, to feature in the next instalments of our series. It is a fantastic way to create awareness about research, start up businesses, for finding employment post-university, and simply highlighting your studies. If you are interested, you can get in touch with us here, or alternatively you can speak to SICSA for more information.


New MSc IT Cyber Security for non-computing graduates

Cyber Security is growing in importance as more and more of what we do moves online.  Both public and private sector organisations are employing more cyber security professionals, both because they want to secure their information, but also, increasingly, because they are required to do so by new legislation.

The University of Glasgow School of Computing Science is delighted to announce the availability of a new programme designed for graduates who have a good non-computing degree and an interest in cyber security.  On the security side it teaches general cyber security techniques with Cyber Security Fundamentals and Cryptography and Secure Development.  Enterprise Cyber Security covers security in business organisations, while Human Centred Security, Cyber Security Forensics and Safety Critical Systems (protecting critical infrastructure) rounds off this part of the programme.

On the IT side, students are taught to program with a Programming course and Team Project, and also learn about Databases, Computer Systems and Software Project management.  The programme finishes with a Cyber Security based summer project.  No prior computing education is required.

Further information at


SICSA CDT Info Day – 31 March 2017

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SICSA Graduate Academy Director
22 March 2017


PhD research is a vital component of every university academic activity. Over the past decade, the UK funding model has shifted from individual PhD scholarships towards centres for doctoral training (CDTs). These are large cohorts of students located in centres of excellence devoted to specific research topics. In the ICT sector there are only three CDTs in Scotland at present – Data Science, Pervasive Parallelism, and Robotics – all located in the city of Edinburgh.

Scotland faces a particular problem with CDTs – our CompSci departments are generally small and geographically distant. This is precisely what SFC research pooling aims to address. The question now becomes: can we take advantage of pooling to set up virtual centres of excellence that would form the basis for new CDTs? This requires combining smaller research groups in novel ways- which we have already done to some extent via SICSA research themes.  Now can we achieve closer integration and collaboration to build CDT sites?

We have organised a meeting in Edinburgh on Friday 31 March, to prepare for the next CDT funding call from EPSRC, probably due within the next year or so. We will have briefings from EPSRC and current CDT award holders, as well as interactive sessions aimed at fostering collaboration. Please register for this workshop on eventbrite, and let other colleagues know about it

EPSRC Diversity and Inclusion in ICT Study

by Professor Carron Shankland, University of Stirling
21 February 2017

We know that women are not well represented in our discipline. The 2016 Women in IT scorecard shows that while all girls get Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at an early age in school, the number of women drops throughout education to 36% at GCSE level, 26% at GCE level, and just 17% at degree level.  This 17% is maintained in industrial jobs, although there is wide variation within different specialisms. In academia we find a similar leaky pipeline: from 17% graduating at first degree level, we rise to 25% at postgraduate level, 22% at lecturer/senior lecturer level, and 12.5% at professorial level (HESA 2013/14 figures).

Clearly there’s a problem getting women into the subject in the first place, but why do many women, having trained in computing, not continue their career?  EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) are particularly interested in why research careers are not pursued by women, and other under-represented groups, in Computing/ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). If we assume women are equally able to do computing research (and why wouldn’t we?) then the implication is that there are barriers faced by under-represented groups. In which case, what are those barriers and how can we break them down?  It seems clear that for the health of our discipline we need to get better at retaining talented people.

These are among the questions being considered in a diversity and inclusion study commissioned by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The review is investigating what the barriers are, how they manifest themselves and what can be done to support underrepresented groups in ICT.  Some issues may cut across minority groups, whether those groups are identified by gender, race, sexuality, age, disability, religion, pregnancy and maternity, or married or partnership status. Therefore the study starts with an an inclusive online survey across the whole ICT research community.

We need to hear from everyone to get a full picture of our research environment (postgrad students to professors, and not only representatives of minority groups). We’re also interested to hear the experiences of those who have left academia: if you are still in touch with ex-colleagues please forward the survey to them.

Take the survey today – right now:

The survey will be open until 28 February and takes around 15 minutes to complete. Questions are around career aspirations and the support you get to pursue your career, your day-to-day environment, the effect of your life on your career, and so on.

Remember, we want to hear from everyone in this survey

SICSA Summer Schools

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SICSA Graduate Academy Director

Summer SchoolA summer school is a fantastic experience for a research student. Learning is much more effective when learners are having fun. And what could be more enjoyable than a residential holiday, mixing with PhD students and subject experts, focusing on a hot topic in Computer Science?

SICSA sponsors PhD summer schools hosted in Scotland. Check the details of the scheme here [ ]. In short, we pay a block grant to cover attendance for a number of PhD students at Scottish Universities. Organizers can then advertise for RUK or overseas students to attend and pay a registration fee. In the past few years, we have funded a diverse range of summer schools, from Type Theory [], through Big Data [ ] to Interactive Systems [ ].

PhD research can be a lonely, isolating experience for a student. A summer school is a tremendous opportunity to meet peers and mentors in the same research area, for study and social activities. Personal links forged at summer schools can last for a lifetime.

Organizing a summer school, whether as a PhD student or an academic staff member, has great benefits too. CV points, prestige for you and your institution, a boost to your research area… A summer school can turn a niche area into a hot topic – with or without the help of the Scottish summer sunshine!

Please get in touch with us [ ] if you want to apply for funding to run a summer school in Scotland.


SICSA Education Director… a look back at the last four years.

by Dr Karen Petrie, SICSA Education Director

On the 1st of September 2013 I (Dr Karen Petrie, University of Dundee) replaced Professor Greg Michaelson (Heriot-Watt University) as the SICSA Director of Education.  This included taking over as HE representative on a number of boards including the Skills Development Scotland ICT Investment Plan implementation group and the Advanced Higher Qualification Development Team.

It has been a very busy 4 years, but I feel that we achieved a lot. Some of the highlights for me were:

  • Admission Criteria Round-Table: The majority of the University admissions tutors for computing in Scotland met with representatives of the school sector (including computing teachers and the SQA) to discuss admission criteria. Following this meeting 7 Universities in Scotland decided to endorse the new Curriculum for Excellence qualifications by recommending Higher Computing Science for entrants.
  • SICSA Education Ministerial Visit (Women in Computing). A women in computing event was held in the University of Dundee as part of the Scottish Government focus on Young People week that coincided with the launch of the ICT Skills Investment Plan. The speakers at this event included Shona Robison MSP who has Equality within her portfolio.  Members of the computing industry and academic also shared best practice for recruiting and retaining women in the ICT industry.
  • The inception of Education Short themes; the first two short themes were:
    1. Towards a Continuum in School to University Computing Education which is lead by Richard Connor, University of Strathclyde along with Quintin Cutts, University of Glasgow and Greg Michaelson, Heriot Watt University;
    2. Recruiting and Supporting Women in Computing. Which is lead by Ishbel Duncan, University of St Andrews and Alison Pease, University of Dundee. It will STEM secondary school activities, which are being coordinated by Natalie Coull, University of Abertay.

This morphed in to our current workshop call which is open to all.

  • We organised an education conference in partnership with SICSA Education, Computing at Schools, Scotland, BCS, College Development Network, ScotlandIS, Education Scotland and the School of Computing at the University of Dundee. All these education based groups joined forces to organise an education conference in Dundee on Saturday 7th of November, 2015.  This followed on from the success of three annual conferences looking at Computing Science in Primary and Secondary schools.  The partnership with SICSA Education provided an academic and research strand, and partnering with ScotlandIS and College Development Network provided an industry and vocational strand. This was the first ever conference in Scotland to bring people together with interests in computing education from primary teachers to HE academics including those from industry.
  • We organised a CPD event for Computing school teachers with Education Scotland to cover the new topics in the new Advanced Higher Computing Science syllabus.

We provided sponsorship for several events aimed at school children including:

  • Transport for young people to be able to attend the YRS Festival of Code
  • A bus to get attendee to the SICSA Christmas Cyber-lectures.
  • The First Lego League
  • A digital response to a Green Year

There have also been more workshops organised by members of the SICSA community than I can recount and at least 3 new lecturer inductions!

I have represented SICSA on several committee including:

  • The Data Lab (an SFC funded innovation centre) Education board
  • The Scottish Government Digital Skills: Industry – Education and Training Strategy boardThe Digital Skills academy advisory board (became Code Clan)
  • E-placement Scotland advisory board
  • Computing at Schools, Scotland
  • SQA Computing Qualifications steering group
  • Skills Investment Plan for ICT (in Scotland)
  • SFC Digital Skills working group
  • BCS Scotland committee

It has been a very busy 4 years for me, but I do not think I have ever learned so much in such a condensed period of time!

That brings me to the main point of the blog which is to say a huge thank you to all of the people I have worked with throughout the years. There have been times when it has not been easy but your support has always helped me through.

I am especially grateful to Aileen and Steven, who have never said we do not have time to help you with another one of your “good ideas”, even though they would have been more than justified in doing so!

Christmas Cyber Lectures

by Alan Settery, SICSA Cyber Security Network Integrator

Once again the annual Cyber Security Christmas lectures has been a huge success with over 2,600 school pupils having a fun experience in the world of Cyber Security and chocolate!

The 5 day lecture series was held just before Christmas across Scotland at universities UHI – Inverness, RGU – Aberdeen, Abertay – Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow Caledonian and is designed to complement the new National Progression Award in Cyber Security are based on: Digital Forensics, Ethical Hacking and Data Security.

It has to be said that this year’s event is probably the largest of it’s kind in the UK and was a logistics challenge with pupils from 81 schools being co-ordinated and transported (lots of buses!) to and from the events. So well done to all involved and thank you SICSA for kindly sponsoring 5 bus loads of pupils to come who otherwise would not have done so, including one all the way from the borders.
Christmas LectureThe presentations were exciting, fun, often thought provoking and engaging – tackling a range of areas; from Bill Buchanan hacking and taking control of mobile devices and cameras, Police Scotland raising awareness of on-line cyber crime, Strathclyde / Edinburgh university linking school pupils into a physical “block chain” and Abertay’s talk about “a fridge full of spam”.  Brian Higgins from ISC2 showed a cyber wheel of fortune game and for the first time the lectures attracted an international keynote speaker – Amalie Wedege from Alpha-zero presented about “Zero days and Stuxnet”.  There were further talks about Public key encryption and NCCGroup’s discussed ‘Why after 15 years of web security was the web not fixed yet?”  All of the presentations were interactive with high energy audience participation – being provided by the numerous chocolate prizes – over the week 55 kg handed out!!!

Media wise, the lectures always attract a large coverage and here are some of the links;

Special recognition is given to Dr Martin Beaton – the main organizer for the event who’s motivation is “… helping pupils to understand the risks they face as well as the opportunities available if they choose a career in the sector.”

Thanks also to everyone who contributed to make the Cyber Christmas lectures a great success; to the speakers who have freely contributed their time; to the sponsors PwC, CGI, Fujitsu, Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, SDS, University of Glasgow (USB wristbands!), SICSA and the hosting universities.

For more information please contact:
Alan Settery
SICSA Cyber Security Network Integrator, University of Glasgow
Phone: +44 (0) 141 330 4845

Christmas Lecture Data