Research Group on Cyber War and Peace

Researchers at UNSW Canberra have set up Australia's first university-based research group on cyber war and peace to leverage existing capabilities in Australia and beyond to promote advanced study of key issues. The group is open to researchers based in universities, think tanks, the armed forces, relevant government agencies and professional organisations.  Among Australian universities, UNSW has the most extensive and innovative program for research and education on national security aspects of cyber space. Our researchers collaborate regularly with the Defence Science and Technology Group and other government agencies. UNSW is home to Australia's only Master's degrees in "cyber war and peace" and "cyber adversary tradecraft". We accept applications for PhD students on a rolling basis and occasionally advertise post-doctoral positions. The research group on cyber war and peace is coordinated by Professor Greg Austin. Contact

With the announcement on 30 June 2017 that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has established a new Information Warfare Division, the research group will pay special attention to basic research supportive of the digital revolution that the ADF has launched. Members of the research group regulalry brief ADF audiences.

Collaborative International Research Workshops

We have led international research colaboration through workshops sponsored by government and/or the UNSW Research Office. Two edute books are currently in preparation as result of this work, provisiobally titled: "National Cyber Emergencies: the Return of Civil Defence" and "Cyber Security Education: The Human Capital Approach". Institutions represented by participating scholars have included Oxford University, Tel Aviv University, NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis (India) the National Defense University, the U.S. Army Cyber Institute at the West Point Military Academy, U.S. Special Foreces University, Queensland University of Technology, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology,  University of Melbourne, Deakin University

Cyber Storm, 18-19 February 2019

Realigning Cyber Security Education 27-28 November 2017, co-sponosored by the Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Redefining R&D Needs for National Cyber Security16 November 2015, co-sponsored by the the Defence Science and Technology Group

Publications on cyber war and peace from UNSW Canberra 2016 to 2019* include:

Developing a Military Cyber Maturity Model for Multi-Domain Battle Mission Resilience and Success

AUSTRALIA REARMED! Future Needs for Cyber-Enabled Warfare

Integrating Cybersurvivability into ADF Platform Development

Australia’s Response to Advanced Technology Threats: An Agenda for the Next Government

Mastering the Cyber Security Skills Crisis: Realigning Educational Outcomes to Industry Requirements

Asymmetric Advantage in the Information Age: An Australian Concept for Cyber-Enabled Special Information Warfare

Civil Defence Gaps under Cyber Blitzkrieg

Australia Needs Civil Defence against the Cyber Storm

Benchmarking Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy

Human Capital for Cyber Security: The Australian Case

Data on China’s PhD Completions Related to Cyber Security

Profiles of Chinese Cyber Security Universities

Literature Review - Cyber Dependency at a Domestic and International Levels

Cyber Security in China: The Next Wave

Robots Writing Chinese and Fighting Underwater

“Pre-emption is victory”: aggravated nuclear instability of the information age

The cyber simulation terrain: Towards an open source cyber effects simulation ontology

System of systems cyber effects simulation ontology

Restraint and Governance in Cyberspace

Developing cyber-security policies that penetrate Australian defence acquisitions

Australia's future submarine: shaping early adaptive designs through test and evaluation

Mapping and Evaluating China's Cyber Power

International Legal Norms in Cyberspace: Evolution of China's National Security Motivations (chapter in this NATO center book)
* Web links will be added in due course

Signature Research Topics across the Team (including PhD students):

  1. Cyber-enabled War: ontology, military maturity and ADF capability
  2. Assessing Mission Critical Aspects of Cyber Attack and Defence
  3. Cyber Education and Skilling, especially for security agencies
  4. Cyber Dependency and Resilience of Critical Infrastructure
  5. Cyber Diplomacy, International Threat Environment and National Policy Responses
  6. Cyber Entanglement: The Case of UNited States and China
  7. Strategic Culture and Cyber War
  8. Information Warfare
  9. Social cyber systems

Research questions under active investigation include:

  1. How should middle powers (like Australia) develop operational cyber warfare capability?
  2. How should middle powers (like Australia) move more rapidly to adjust to new national security needs in cyber space, especially in the face of developments in the United States, China and Russia?
  3. What are the most effective mechanisms for restraining the cyber arms  among major powers or creating confidence building regimes in cyber space?
  4. In middle powers like Australia, what does situational awareness and preparedness look like for national security decision-makers responsible for civil sector resilience in (unlikely) circumstances of wide-ranging, mid-intensity cyber-attacks by a foreign state?
  5. What is the impact of Big Data and IoT on the traditional DIgital Forensic Techniques used in evidence and intelligence collection?
  6. How to secure modern ICS and SCADA systems?  Culture and technology in this context?
  7. What are the most effective ways to ensure that systems can be factorised to minimise the trusted components and attack surface?
  8. How should we plan for cyber security tomorrow?  What mix of skills is needed in the next generation of experts?
  9. How to address growing interactions and complexity between Digital and Physical world in era of Industrial IoT to defend Australian Critical Infrastructure in cyber space?
  10. How to protect and keep sensitive data from modern ICS and legacy SCADA systems safe and secure within a new networked world?  (address new trends such as  BYO, mobility, cloud)
  11. In middle powers like Australia, what are the most effective practices in cyber resilience of mission-critical systems to apply for developing Defence cyber survivability T&E?
  12. How can we understand and predict the actual mission-based effects of a cyber attack against a computer network?
  13. How can we provide ‘better’ (more effective, easier to use, more automated) tools to detect, understand, and minimise the effect of breaches across networks?
  14. How can we collect data from live networks with minimal impact and through maximising privacy?
  15. How can analysis of the core computing resources elements (CPU cycles, memory use, network connectivity, etc) be better used to detect contemporary and next generation network security breaches effectively and accurately?
  16. What are the most effective methods for exploiting modern computing systems in the presence of existing controls, and how can these exploit techniques be subsequently mitigated?
  17. What are the most effective mechanisms for quantitatively evaluating the level of security present in embedded systems?
  18. How one can design and develop a game design framework, which enhances individual’s behaviour through their motivation to adhere the best practices when setting up access control?
  19. How one can design and develop a bespoke fall-back authentication mechanism as an extra layer of security?
  20. Who are the Australian heroes of the Australian information revolution and why did they succeed?
  21. What are the ideal charcateristics of Australia's national innovation system for military and internal security purposes? 


"Diplomacy and Cyber Entanglement" 29 November 2018 Karine Pontbriand

"Data as a Military Objective" 30 August 2018 Professor Robert Mclaughlin

"Strategic Culture and Cyberspace" 26 July 2018 Lt Col Andy Williams

Australia and Cyber War: Civil and Military Planning 28 June 2018 Professor Greg Austin (slide set here)

Cyber Security in China and the Balance of Power 31 May 2018 Professor Greg Austin (slide set here)

Sino-American Information Wars: Implications for Australia 15 March 2018 Professor Greg Austin (slide set here)

Other Presentations

“Impact of Digital China on Australian National Security”, Safeguarding Australia Summit, Canberra 9 May 2019

“Advanced Cyber Operations Analysis: Missing Link in Australian Defence”,  National Security Science & Technology Forum, Canberra, 9 May 2019

“China’s Cyber Security Landscape”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Moscow, 13-14 December 2018. Track 1.5 Conference on Cyberstability: Approaches, Perspectives, Challenges

"Advance Australia: Beyond Cyber Skills to Resilient Cyberspace Talent", ACSC 2018, Professor Greg Austin (slide set here) Text of presentation available on request

“Credible Deterrence in the Contemporary Strategic Environment”, Multinational Interoperability Council (8 countries), 28 March 2018, Queenstown, New Zealand

“Cyber Policy in China”, Vietnam Diplomatic Academy Hanoi, Distinguished Speaker, 2017

 “Cyber Threat Perspectives”, Symantec/AON Travelling Cyber Risk Symposium, 24-26 August 2016, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane

Invited keynote speaker, IEEE Internet Initiative, Workshop, Beijing, 17 May 2016

Invited Paper on “Mutual Restraint in the Cyber Diplomacy of Great Powers”, IDSA Annual Conference: “Securing Cyber Space: Asian and International Perspectives”, New Delhi, 9-11 February 2016

Invited presentation on “Shaping the Cyber Arms Race of the Future”, Australian Defence Magazine, Annual Cyber Security Summit, 21-22 June 2016, Canberra