PhD National Security Workshop 2011

  • 2011

    14 September 2011

    This workshop aims to continue previous endeavours by the RNSA to build a network of PhD researchers in an effort to match PhD researchers with representatives of the national security community who may be interested in their work. It also provides PhD researchers with an opportunity to learn more about the research and technology needs of the  practitioner community. PhD students are welcome if their work explores areas of national security including counter-terrorism and intelligence. The organiser is Dragana Calic.


    10:00 WelcomeProfessor Priyan Mendis, Reader, RNSA
    10:10 Introduction and overviewWorkshop Convenor: Dragana Calic, DSTO
      PhD Research Presentations – Morning Session
      Critical scaled distances of spherical vs cylindrical charge shape effects for external, partially and fully confined blastsNimasha Weerasingha Mohottige, The University of Adelaide
    10:40 Unified approach on modelling for blast and impact actions on structuresYi Yang, The University of Melbourne
    11:00 Break
    11:30 The next step in biometric data fusionGed Griffin, The University of Melbourne
    11:50 Challenges in designing secure challenge-response type user authentication systemsHassan Jameel Asghar, Macquarie University
    12:10 Smartphone malware on Android platformMoutaz Alazab, Deakin University
    12:30 Lunch
      PhD Research Presentations – Afternoon Session
    1:30 Developing a national scale, agent-based modelling capability for simulating bio-security threats in AustraliaMitchell Welch, The University of New England
    1:50 The role of transition in enabling ADF disengagement from enduring interventionsMichael Martin, Flinders University
    2:10 Discourses of terrorism: The role of Internet technologies (social media and online propaganda) on Islamic radicalisation, extremism and recruitment post 9/11Robyn Torok, Edith Cowan University
    2:30 From terrorist to citizenKate Barrelle, Global Terrorism Research Centre, Monash University
    2:50 What’s it like to work with Tom Cruise? A framework for applying psychological assessments at a distanceDragana Calic, Defence Science and Technology Organisation
    3:10 Break
    3:30 Guest speaker
    4:00 Summary and CloseWorkshop Convenor: Dragana Calic


    Non-PhD students are welcome to attend the event as observers. In this stiatuion, the observers need to pay $80 to cover catering plus the dinner cost if they wish to come to attend. To register as an observer, please click here. To register for dinner, please click here.

    About the Workshop 

    The workshop will be held during the first day of Safeguarding Australia 2010 Conference 14 September 2011 in Canberra from 10:00am.

    Conference Venue

    The Workshop will be held at Rydges Lakeside Hotel, 1 London Circuit, Canberra City, ACT.

    The Research Network for a Secure Australia (RNSA) and the National Security Science and Technology Branch at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet are sponsors of this event.

    Presenter Abstracts

    Critical Scaled Distances of Spherical vs Cylindrical Charge Shape Effects for External, Partially and Fully Confined Blasts
    Nimasha Weerasingha Mohottige, The University of Adelaide

    Recent research has indicated that cylindrical charges have significant effects on peak pressure and impulse distributions in close scaled distances for external and confined blasts. However, little investigation has been conducted on the critical scaled distances which cylindrical charge shapes affect for external, partially and fully confined blasts so that the charge shape effects could be neglected. In this paper, a finite element program, AUTODYN was calibrated with the experimental results conducted by Wu et al. (2010) in a blast chamber. The calibrated AUTODYN model is then used to conduct parametric studies to investigate the critical scaled distances due to the variation of charge shape, charge orientation on peak incident overpressure and impulse, peak reflected overpressure and impulse for external, partially and fully confined blasts. The critical scaled distances under different blast scenarios are characterized and the simulated results are used to derive the relationships between the peak overpressure and critical scaled distance for the external, partially and fully confined blasts. Discussion is made on the suitability of the assumption that spherical charges are used for all explosive-effects computations in modern standards for blast-resistant design such as UFC-3-340-02 (2008) and the soon-to-be published ASCE Standard for the Blast Protection of Buildings (ASCE forthcoming).

    Unified approach on modelling for blast and impact actions on structures
    Yi Yang, The University of Melbourne

    Blast and Impact actions are often simulated using specialised software, such as the well known program LS-DYNA. Whilst this type of simulation exercises appears to be reliable, the generated results involving inelastic material behaviour do not always match with observations from physical experimentations (which are also very limited). This is the result of lack of fundamental understanding of the guiding principles and identification of the key parameters which control deflection and fracture behaviour of materials in transient conditions. Years of collaborative research at The University of Melbourne as summarised in this paper has culminated in the development of a unified modelling methodology which could be adapted for estimating impact and blast induced response of elastic material behaviour, which would allow quick assessment of structural components response without having to undertake rigorous finite element analyses. A range of modelling methods with varying degree of rigour and complexity, including simple hand calculation techniques, will be introduced in this summary paper. The modelling methodology could be expanded further to include material damage, which application could potentially lead to significant contributions towards disaster mitigation.

    The next step in biometric data fusion
    Ged Griffin, The University of Melbourne

    The use of identification systems to confirm the identity of a known person or to identify an unknown individual are at the heart of many security systems and police investigations. To a large degree, fingerprints and DNA systems have been a key tool for security professionals and investigators. The information age has led to the development of new technology that can operate at a much faster and more diverse rate than previous manual systems. It has also led to the streamlining and automation of singular and multi-modal biometric identification systems. This automation includes the digital capture and analysis of fingerprints, speech, retina scans and facial imagery. This presentation outlines my PhD and discusses biometric data fusion and current research regarding the development of a scalable forensic data fusion platform. The research extends the concept of biometric data fusion to include the fusion of bioinformatic data from crime scenes and commodities, such as illicit drugs.

    Challenges in designing secure challenge-response type user authentication systems
    Hassan Jameel Asghar, Macquarie University

    Despite its apparent insecurity, password-based authentication remains the most usable form of authentication mainly because of its low time consumption. Nowadays it is used in conjunction with other authentication methods, such as key-card and biometrics, in what is known as multi-factor authentication. Imagine a situation in which the user is using a malware-infected terminal, and a hidden camera observes his/her actions as well as the display of the terminal. To make matters worst, there is no guarantee that the transmission line from the terminal to the remote server, which needs to authenticate the user, is secure. How safe are the traditional methods of authentication in this scenario? Matsumoto and Imai conceived this back in 1991, and there have been several attempts to make authentication systems secure in this environment. These systems are essentially shared key challenge-response protocols presented in a human friendly way. Like mainstream cryptography, their security is based on the intractability of some underlying mathematical function. However, while these systems offer increased security, the time for authentication is too high (1 to 3 minutes). This has remained a challenge for researchers over the years. An increasingly common research direction is to construct challenge-response type authentication systems secure under relaxed variants of Matsumoto and Imai’s threat model. For instance, one model is where the terminal and the communication link to the server is secure, but the hidden camera persists. A typical realization of this scenario is ATM authentication. This presentation covers different challenges in constructing secure challenge-response authentication systems in the aforementioned threat model and its variants.

    Smartphone malware on Android platform
    Moutaz Alazab, Deakin University

    Smartphones are being used more than ever and now almost all people in Australia possess them. These devices can be used as a general purpose computer for such tasks as checking e-mail, accessing online accounts, conducting employed work, Instant Messaging (IM), storing personal data and performing online banking and payments. Additionally, the number of downloadable smartphone applications is increasing at a staggering rate. The high numbers of smartphone applications motivate attackers to create malicious code (malware). Consequently, new malware has been increasing and has become more and more sophisticated.

    The Android platform is one of the three major mobile device platforms currently in use. The other two platforms are proprietary Microsoft and Apple operating systems. It is expected that Android, developed by Google, will continue to be a major player in mobile devices in the next decade. Microsoft generates its own antivirus technology for its operating systems and Apple provides security by restricting access to its systems. However, detecting malicious software on the Android operating system is one of the major current concerns in information security given the expected expansion of the mobile device market. As part of our research, we propose statistical machine learning to detect and classify malicious applications in the Google application market based on analysis of the software’s API calls. We also investigate weaknesses in the Android operating system which leave it vulnerable to attacks by malware and to develop additional methods for protecting the system against attacks based on these weaknesses.

    Developing a national scale, agent-based modelling capability for simulating bio-security threats in Australia
    Mitchell Welch, The University of New England

    Australia’s agricultural and livestock industries account for a large percentage of the nation’s exports and provide employment for thousands of Australians, especially in regional and inland areas. Currently, Australia’s livestock industry maintains a disease free status and has relatively few native insect pests compared to other countries in the Australasian region. However, with increasing movement of people, agricultural products and livestock both internationally and nationally due to trade and processes used in livestock production, the threats of livestock diseases and agricultural pests being introduced and spread within Australia are greater than ever. The plethora of bio-security threats has led to a requirement for easily accessible decision support tools to aid policy makers with their development of contingency plans. In recent years, Agent based modelling (ABM) has emerged as a robust technique for modelling complex, real-world phenomena on a massive scale. ABMs provide rich modelling environments that are suited to decision support and experimentation. Decision makers can use ABMs to experiment with individual-level parameter values and see the effects of their changes on the whole system through emergent behaviour. The work in this project explores the use of parallel processing algorithms, dynamic agent compression techniques and multi-core Graphics Processing Units coupled with data assets, like the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database, to provide a national scale agent-based model that is capable of operating on off-the-shelf computer hardware. The project aims to further develop agent-based modelling into a decision support platform through a novel conceptual framework of modular architecture for coupling ABMs with Geographical Information System(GIS) software packages, such as ArcGIS or QuantumGIS, which allows the users to perform detailed analyses on simulation results, using an agent-oriented approach.

    The role of transition in enabling ADF disengagement from enduring interventions
    Michael Martin, Flinders University

    Australian national security is at a cross roads with respect to the way in which the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is likely to support future national defence and foreign affairs strategies. Given Australia’s security ties with the United States and its ongoing regional responsibilities, it would be premature to argue that Australia will not be deploying to conflict affected societies in the future. A common thread that continues to emerge from Australian interventions is disengaging from conflict zones and determining the appropriate means and time to do so. That is, how can the ADF exit a conflict affected society when the host nation has become dependent on it for the provision of security and other necessary functions of state. The current focus on the process of transition in Afghanistan is viewed as a panacea to the issues surrounding disengagement by a foreign military. Transition has become the catch-all term to describe the endstate for many ADF operations in which an intervention has taken place to end conflict and create a viable state. The term has become popularised and is used by a variety of actors without comprehending what it is, what is required to achieve it, and how it can be achieved in a timely manner. My research investigates how Australia plans for and implements the process of transition in Afghanistan, and how this process is used to transfer responsibility for security to the host nation. This population centric view seeks to identify best practice for the planning and implementation of transitions, which it is believed will have a wider applicability to Australia’s immediate region in the future. Hence, it is envisioned that the process of transition will enable the ADF to exit current and future conflicts in a manner that will not undermine the host nation, and will not require a future redeployment.

    Discourses of terrorism: The role of Internet technologies (social media and online propaganda) on Islamic radicalisation, extremism and recruitment post 9/11
    Robyn Torok

    Since the inception of the global war on terror, al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists groups have needed to rethink their strategy. One of the key strategic shifts has been the increasing utilisation of the internet, especially social media technologies to facilitate radicalisation, extremist’s ideals and ultimately recruitment into the global jihad. This thesis will explore how the internet and social media facilitate Islamic radicalisation and extremism by applying a number of sociological and analytical frameworks to social media sites (i.e.,Facebook pages and groups) in order to develop theories and conceptual models of the process of online radicalisation and cyber jihad including its dangers and limitations. The study will focus primarily on English language recruitment and Western media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. In addition to analysis of static pages/groups, more importantly, emphasis will be on dynamic interaction patterns in order to better conceptualise the process of radicalised socialisation. A critical component of the socialisation

    process will be to understand power relations using tools from philosopher Michel Foucault. Anticipated outcomes of the study will include online models of radicalisation and socialisation in an attempt to understand how recruitment and training is occurring for global jihad online.

    From terrorist to citizen
    Kate Barrelle, Global Terrorism Research Centre, Monash University

    Most people who join radical or extreme groups leave at some point. If we are to design effective counter radicalisation interventions, prevention of violent extremism strategies, or disengagement interventions then we need to talk to people who have trod this path. This paper will present preliminary findings from 17 interviews with former extremists, all of whom were once either jihadi Islamists, separatist Tamil fighters, or militant environmentalists. Common themes include how hard it is to leave, that there are multiple reasons for exit but that the main reason is often the level of violence itself, that once a person leaves they are a social vacuum and vulnerable to radicalising again unless satisfactory alternate roles and relationships are immediately available. The most striking finding is that whilst every single one of the former extremists interviewed had changed their behaviour and were no longer involved in political violence (i.e. they had disengaged), the majority had NOT changed their minds. So although disengaged from violent activities per se, they retained their radical and extreme beliefs (i.e. they had not deradicalised). The data set is not yet complete, but some possible differences between the ideology groups can be identified, most notably that most of the former militant environmentalists and former Tamil fighters have transitioned into mainstream activism; far more so than the former jihadi Islamists, who seem to be having the most difficulty coping afterwards. Patterns are highlighted and issues raised for the consideration of practitioners and policy makers.

    What’s it like to work with Tom Cruise? A framework for applying psychological assessments at a distance
    Dragana Calic, Defence Science and Technology Organisation

    About the Research Network for a Secure Australia

    This event is organised by the Research Network for a Secure Australia (RNSA). The RNSA is a multi-disciplinary collaboration established to strengthen Australia’s research capacity to enhance the protection from natural and man-made hazards.

    The RNSA received Australian Research Council (ARC) funding in 2005. The core function of the RNSA is to bring together academics, industry and government to identify potentially useful research and innovation, and research priorities. The RNSA seeks to foster the development of collaborative projects between researchers and the security community. The RNSA has over 600 members. Information including a directory of national security researchers is at

    About the National Security Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

    The National Security Science and Technology Branch within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet provides a national focus for science and innovation aimed at enhancing Australia’s national security. The Branch carries out this role through leading the implementation of the National Security Science and Innovation Strategy and managing a portfolio of domestic and international research programs. Further information on the Branch is available at

    About the National Security Science and Innovation Strategy

    The enhancement of the National Security Science and Innovation Conference is one of the initiatives set out in the Australian Government’s National Security Science and Innovation Strategy. The Strategy, which was publicly released in November 2009, aims to enhance the application of science and innovation to national security. It establishes a unified set of national security objectives for science and innovation and an annual process for the national security community to communicate their science and innovation priorities to researchers, entrepreneurs and funding programs. The Strategy will facilitate better collaboration, more relevant research and development, and the enhancement of required research capabilities. The Strategy is available for download at


    The organiser is Dragana Calic at