A PhD Position on Cybersecurity for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

A PhD Position on Cybersecurity for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

Published Deadline Location
7 Mar 31 Mar Amsterdam

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Do you have a background in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Engineering, or Security? And are you interested in doing a PhD with multi-disciplinary collaboration?

Vrije Universiteit is a highly ranked university and is exceedingly active ...

Job description

Cybersecurity for SMEs

Cybersecurity training is fundamental to help employees protect themselves and their companies against cyberattacks and threats. However, many organisational and economical limitations hinder companies, particularly SMEs, in effectively training their personnel. The project proposes a novel training system to create innovative techniques for training cybersecurity in SEMs. This opens new technical challenges for training implementation and delivery, such as effectively using virtualisation, dedicated cyber-range simulations in operational settings, and effective threat analysis for risk management. The automated approaches supporting these activities are crucial to the success of innovative cybersecurity training for SMEs. Therefore, the developed techniques will require rigorous validation including experimental and empirical studies, case studies and interviews conducted with partners.

Do you want to advance the state of the art in this exciting interdisciplinary topic?

Your duties
  • To contribute towards solving a key scientific challenge in the area of cybersecurity and intelligence.
  • To design, build and test an automated approach to support cybersecurity attack and defend challenges to be used in the context of cybersecurity training in SMEs with practitioners.
  • Identify and capture the quantifiable measures of success for cybersecurity training practices and understand how cybersecurity challenges are perceived and handled by humans in decision making processes.
  • To help design and conduct experimental and empirical studies, possibly including controlled experiments, descriptive and observational studies, case studies with industrial partners, interview and survey studies.
  • To work part of a team of fellow researchers and students, share research ideas, results, and effectively communicate progress to produce top quality results.
  • To develop the necessary empirical protocols and measures and package them for broader impact (e.g., for study replications from other research fields or by industry and public administration partners).
  • Writing scientific publications as the main driving force and as co-author, attending international conferences and workshops to present own work and maintain up-to date with latest research findings.
  • Support educational activities related to one's research field.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


We accept applications from students who have not yet completed their master thesis but plan to do so within a few months. We are looking for applicants who have an outstanding education that is roughly equivalent to a MSc in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Security, Software Engineering, or other related topics with a proven interest in any of the above areas.

Essential requirements
  • MSc degree in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Security, Software Engineering, or related field OR ongoing Master student close to completion (few months).
  • A keen interest in the interdisciplinary research topic of cybersecurity education and training.
  • Fluency in speaking and writing in the English language and good communication skills (interpersonal and presentation skills).
  • Solid knowledge of Security, threat analysis and threat intelligence.
  • Solid knowledge of Statistical and analytical skills.
  • Solid knowledge of programming languages and tools used for cyber-range activities (Docker, Kubernetes, Network Layer,...) and languages for statistical analysis (e.g., R, Python).
  • (Ideally) Participation experience in a cyber-range challenge.
  • (Ideally) Knowledge of designing and conducting a cyber-range challenge including monitoring performance and collecting success metrics.
  • (Ideally) Knowledge of designing and conducting empirical studies.
  • (Ideally) Some experience with network security.
  • (Ideally) Some experience analyzing data collected with human participants.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 18 months.

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,541 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0,8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 18 months (including two months probation). After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a total duration of 4 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment,
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus,
  • solid pension scheme (ABP),
  • contribution to commuting expenses,
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor - from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to more than 11,000 students.


  • PhD
  • 30.4—38 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 14921


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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