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School of Mathematical Sciences

Queen Mary’s Dr Nicola Perra wins grant to combat cyber security threats in social media

Dr Nicola Perra from Queen Mary’s School of Mathematical Sciences has secured a £71,000 grant to develop a new method for modelling the spread of cyber threats through online social networks in a project titled ‘Modelling the Spreading of Cyber Threats in Online Social Networks’. 


Social engineering attacks are a prevalent threat in today's digital landscape, exploiting human psychology to manipulate users into divulging personal information or clicking on malicious links. Despite ongoing research efforts, current automated detection systems often struggle to identify these attacks. 

This innovative project will address three critical limitations hindering progress in this field. Firstly, existing models typically assess an individual's susceptibility to threats in isolation, neglecting the influence of social networks on user behaviour. Secondly, they often assume a constant susceptibility level, but it can fluctuate over time and be influenced by a person's cognitive processes. Thirdly, they fail to account for the constantly evolving nature of online user behaviour. 

The project will overcome these challenges by developing a model that incorporates both the influence of social networks and the adaptive nature of cyber threats. This will involve utilising ‘activity-driven networks’ to analyse how variations in social dynamics and individual susceptibility levels impact the spread of threats. To provide a more realistic picture, the model will be further enhanced with a cognitive element. 

By considering the complex interplay between social interactions, cognitive processes, and the spread of cyber threats, the project aims to achieve a deeper understanding of how these threats grow through online social networks. This knowledge will be instrumental in developing new methods to combat them. 

We look forward to seeing the outcomes of this project! 



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