Our research

Our research

Research in the Department of Security Studies and Criminology is focused within the disciplines of security studies and criminology. Our researchers are actively involved with the conceptual and empirical exploration of new and emerging criminal and security threats, as well as with the critical examination of governmental policy and strategy, particularly regarding the military, law enforcement and intelligence services.

Our research is high impact and is published in leading international academic and scholarly publications. We also directly engage with law enforcement, including agencies such as NSW and Victoria Police, the NSW Crime Commission and the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers.

Research areas

Our research strengths include:

Security and defence

Researchers in this area pursue a range of different projects related to Indo-Pacific and global strategic trends. Currently, these include the geopolitics of China’s rise; the role of the United States in Asia; the challenges and prospects for Taiwan’s emerging strategic position; the ‘soft power’ potential in Central and South Asia; terrorism and insurgency in Asia; nuclear proliferation; conflict on the Korean Peninsula; military modernisation, defence industry and “arms racing” in Asia; desertion in civil wars; and exploring the influence of strategic theory in Western defence decision-making.

Key staff

Ben SchreerAndrew TanMichael CohenSheryn LeeYves-Heng LimAdam LockyerTom Waldman

Terrorism and Resilience

Violent extremism is a willingness to use or support the use of violence to further beliefs of a political, social or ideological nature, and may include a willingness to use acts of terrorism, politically motivated violence, or communal violence. It manifests as a complex social and criminal problem that is not easily defined, or open to straightforward policy formulation as it encompasses a very wide range of behaviours and context. Countering violent extremism (CVE) involves a wide range of government and community responses, including law enforcement, intelligence, targeted intervention and support for community resilience.

The Terrorism and Resilience research program employs a range of academic skills and approaches from the Humanities and Social Sciences to 1. Determining the drivers of violent extremism domestically and nationally; 2. Map the nature and effectiveness of CVE programs in Australia; 3. Provide research into violent extremist narratives and the counter narratives; 4. Deliver policy advice on how best to support CVE and community resilience in Australia; Research emerging trends in terrorism and resilience such as the cyber domain.

Key staff

Research projects

2015: Countering Violent Extremism in NSW

Funding: NSW Government / Multicultural NSW - $100,000

This project provides a review of NSW’s current CVE and social resilience architecture in order to undertake a gap analysis of current government and community programs and guide the expenditure of the State’s 2015-16 $4 million community CVE budget, directed by Multicultural NSW. It entails a community consultation process, and will provide a confidential Parliamentary report, as well as facilitated workshops on CVE partnerships in NSW.

2015: Understanding Online Violent Extremism Audiences

Funding: ARC Discovery Project  - $285,000, for three years

This project is a collaboration between the Department, Edith Cowan University and the University of Haifa, Israel. Its aim is to develop an understanding of the influence of the internet on violent extremism, particularly how online messages are received and interpreted. It will have a significant impact on the development of measures to counter violent extremism by (1) addressing assumptions about the relationship between online violent extremist content and violent extremist behaviour and; (2) developing understanding of how violent extremist messaging is received and interpreted.

2015: Investigating Violent Extremist Narratives

This project provides a content analysis of select forms of violent extremist narratives, particularly the e-zines produced by Al-Qaida and ISIL. Through identifying and mapping the themes in these narratives insight into the world-views and strategic personalities of these groups can be gained.

2014: Australia’s Countering Violent Extremism Workshops

Funding from industry partners, i.e. Federal AGs, NSW Police, Multicultural NSW – $25,000

Building on a spirit of collaborative partnering to achieve practical CVE solutions, the Department, with Curtin and Massey Universities, hosted a two-day symposium in Sydney in September 2014. This Symposium was structured as a series of outcome-focused workshops providing the diverse CVE community with the opportunity to generate novel insight and solutions to the some of the most pressing challenges facing CVE, its approaches and strategies. Focused on securing tangible outcomes for all participants, the Symposium comprised five workshops, each addressing a pre-identified challenge/issue in the CVE realm.

The outcomes of this event were published in a special CVE issue of the Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism. View the special CVE issue

2012: Mapping Violence in Honiara

Funding from Australian Department of Defence – $18,000

This project engaged in an anthropological investigation into the cultural and social drivers of violent behaviour in Solomon Islands. It was sponsored by the Australian Department of Defence and resulted in a confidential paper used to support RAMSI strategy.

The outcomes of this project were published as a paper in the Australian Journal of International Affairs. Read the paper

PHD Students

Current
  • Adrin Choubineh, ‘Modes of Radicalization among Sydney-Based Shiite’.
  • Simon Henry, ‘An Investigation into the Australian Survivalist Subculture’.
Completed
  • Moinul Khan, ‘The Islamic Resurgence: Why Bangladesh is a Case Apart’. 
  • Khuram Iqbal, ‘Evolution of Suicide Terrorism: A Case Study of Pakistan’.

Select corporate partners

  • NSW Police
  • Federal Attorney General’s Department
  • Multicultural NSW
  • Hedaya Institute, Abu Dhabi
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Intelligence

Within the Intelligence stream, the research surrounding intelligence-related issues holds significant relevance for many key stakeholders in the Intelligence Community, Law Enforcement Community and broad National Security Community domestically and internationally. Intelligence is a highly dynamic area, and one in which researchers need to be well-informed in a number of emerging disciplines, such as Social Medial Intelligence (SOCMINT), Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) and the threats posed by numerous national security issues, as well as have a strong appreciation of the history and the practice of the Intelligence discipline.

Key focus areas are  

  • Key areas of expertise and skills needed in future Intelligence practitioner
  • The threat of cyber espionage and the theft of Intellectual Property (IP)
  • The impact and effects of cyber on intelligence processes
  • Historical studies of intelligence development and operations with a view of how we arrived at where we are today
  • Intelligence aspects of contemporary security issues, including International, Domestic and Maritime security-related issues.

Key staff

Current research projects

  • Rebecca Vogel: PhD project: Cyber Espionage - How to combat the Insider Threat? 
  • Fred Smith: Book Project with Dr John Fahey: A Little Investigation Now, focusing on the development of Australian national intelligence.

Cooperation partners

  • Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT)
  • University of Maryland, Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START)
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO)

Cyber Security

Research in Cyber Security is focused on understanding how cybercriminals, money launderers and terrorist organisations exploit cyberspace for financial gain. By learning the motivations, methods, techniques and behaviours of these groups, we can provide law enforcement and intelligence agencies with knowledge that can help them to target their resources effectively.

Areas of interest

  • Money laundering and terrorism financing in the cyber realm
  • The use of cryptocurrencies to fund violent jihad
  • Cybercrime and the underground economy
  • The application of machine learning to unlock the secrets of Bitcoin
  • Digital identity and identity protection in cyberspace
  • Cybercrime: Securing the human element
  • The insider threat
  • Spam and Cyber crime
  • Organizations and Cyber crime
  • Malware: analysis, trends and implications

Key staff

Key research projects

  • The use of cryptocurrencies to fund violent jihad
  • The Insider Threat (PhD thesis)
  • “To catch a digital thief” linking identity to a Bitcoin transaction
  • Following Digital Breadcrumbs: The Virtual Footprints of Cryptocurrencies

Criminology

Criminology at Macquarie University explores the dynamic relationship between crime, criminal organisations and law enforcement. Our department has a critically focused research agenda that combines theoretical knowledge with innovative empirical research into new and emerging criminal threats and public policy responses from domestic and international policing agencies. The main themes with which staff are currently engaged are cryptomarkets and online drug distribution, and police and crime control in Australia.

Researchers

Current and recently completed criminology research projects include:

Illicit drugs trading online: A longitudinal comparative analysis of cryptomarkets

This is a Macquarie University Development Grant funded project investigating the extent and impact of online illicit drug trading in Australia. The international research team is led by Dr James Martin and includes collaborators from the London School of Economics and VU University Amsterdam.

Drugs on the Dark Net: How Cryptomarkets are Transforming the Global Trade in Illicit Drugs

Drugs on the Dark Net is the first scholarly book to investigate the rapidly expanding world of online illicit drugs trading. The book focuses on cryptomarkets – encrypted and anonymous ‘dark net’ websites – that facilitate the sale and distribution of a vast range of illicit drugs as well as other black market goods and services around the world.

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