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

Terrorism and Resilience

Violent extremism is a willingness to use or support the use of violence to further political, social or ideological goals, and may include acts of terrorism, politically motivated violence, or communal violence. It manifests as a complex social, criminal and defence 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 research program at Macquarie employs a range of academic skills and approaches from the humanities and social sciences to 1. Determine the drivers of violent extremism domestically and nationally; 2. Map the nature and effectiveness of CVE programs in Australia and abroad; 3. Provide research into violent extremist narratives and counter narratives; 4. Deliver policy advice on how best to support CT and CVE in Australia; 5. Research emerging trends in terrorism such as the cyber domain.

Key staff

Funded projects

2017: AUSTRALIA AWARDS GRANT FOR BANGLADESHI POLICE FORCE TRAINING IN CVE

Funding: DFAT Australia Awards - $235,000

This fellowship will contribute to the effective governance of the Bangladeshi police force through enhancing their institutional ability to proactively engage in countering violent extremism (CVE) and counter terrorism (CT) policy development and operations. Macquarie University is responding to a request from the Bangladeshi Police Staff College to assist them to build their conceptual understanding of the issues surrounding CVE, including Australian and global best practice in law enforcement responses to communities suffering from the pressures of radicalisation to extremism and violence.

2017: EVALUATING CAPE CVE PROGRAM AGAINST FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISM

Funding: All Together Now - $20,000

This program involves measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of the CVE Community Action for Preventing Extremism (CAPE) program run by All Together Now. This program works to undermine recruitment into far-right white nationalists groups.

2016: UNDERSTANDING ONLINE VIOLENT EXTREMISM AUDIENCES

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

This project’s 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: 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.

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

PHD Students

Current
  • Adrin Choubineh, ‘Modes of Radicalization among Sydney-Based Shiite’.
  • Munger Hamaid, ‘The Role of Audiences in Interpreting Violent Extremist Messaging’.
  • Simon Henry, ‘An Investigation into the Australian Survivalist Subculture’.
  • Malkanthi Hettiarachchi, ‘Radicalisation and Deradicalisation: A Tamil Tiger Case Study’.
  • David Hooker, ‘Salafi Jihadi and Radical Right Violent Extremist Propaganda: A New Mixed Method Analysis’.
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
  • All Together Now

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.

Areas of interest

  • 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
  • The Development of a Global Regulatory Framework for Cryptocurrencies
  • The future challenges and direction of cyber currency from a foresight perspective

Criminology

Criminology at Macquarie University explores the dynamic relationship between crime, criminal organisations and state actors. Our department has a critically focused research agenda that combines theoretical knowledge with innovative empirical research. We are particularly interested in 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, police and crime control in Australia, the political economy of organised crime and its links to terrorism in the Asia Pacific and Latin American regions, and the internal governance of criminal organisations.

Key staff

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 Darknet: Assessing the global health risks of a rapidly expanding market 

This is a major, three-year research project investigating the public health implications associated with the growth of darknet drug trading funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Dr James Martin is Chief Investigator B on the project and is leading several components of the research, including digital chat interviews with cryptomarket users. 

Darknet drug traders: a qualitative exploration of the career trajectories, activities and perceptions of risk and reward of online drug dealers 

This research involves conducting encrypted chat interviews with online drug vendors and is funded by the Australian Institute of Criminology. Dr James Martin is lead Chief Investigator on the project, and is coordinating an international research team with academics from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW, the Griffith Criminology Institute and Copenhagen University.

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