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Cybersecurity experts create technology to improve internet safety


Innovative technology to provide safer internet surfing for children is being created by University of Wolverhampton cybersecurity experts.

VACCYNE (Vaccine against Cyber Negative Experiences) is a child-centred shield against harmful content such as violent and pornographic material. It aims to supersede obsolete techniques in use today with a state-of-the-art and intelligent solution.

Led by Dr Haider Al-Khateeb, of Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute (WCRI), based at the University, it will address emerging threats targeting children on social media using faster intervention and stronger filtering capabilities.

VACCYNE has so far been awarded around £32,000 to stimulate the commercial exploitation of its innovative research output as part of Phase 1 of the Cyber Academic Startup Programme.

The team went through a rigorous selection process as part of the programme, which is funded by the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK and Knowledge Transfer Network.

Dr Al-Khateeb said: “The internet provides high exposure to malicious content which has a direct impact on children’s safety, including illicit, violent and pornographic material.

He said recent studies showed one in four children had been exposed to racist or hate messages and over 2,200 counselling sessions with young people took place in 2017/18 related to online sexual exploitation - a 44 per cent increase from the previous year.

The recent update on internet access in the UK by the Office for National Statistics revealed 100% of households with children have access to the internet.

"The benefits of accessibility are acknowledged but the damage is also well-documented in many studies," he said. "Current solutions are clearly problematic."

Dr Zhraa Alhaboby, Lecturer in Public Health and part of the team, added: "The internet is also an enabler for cyber victimisation, such as cyberbullying, which has drastic and severe health implications in children and adults, including documented cases of self-harm and suicide.”

Professor Amar Aggoun, a co-investigator in the team and Head of the School of Mathematics and Computer Science, said: “The value proposition of VACCYNE is manifested by quicker intervention and better filtering capabilities with the ability to address emerging threats targeting children on social media. Commercialising innovative research carried out in universities helps to move ideas from our labs to the real world to add positive impact; this is what research should be about.”

Picture caption from left to right: Dr Haider Al-Khateeb and Professor Amar Aggoun.

Further information

Date issued: Tuesday, 2 July 2019

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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