Paul A. Watters PhD – Cybercrime Expert

Paul A. Watters PhD is Australasia’s leading cybercrime researcher, with more than 20 years of professional experience. After early experience as a system administrator (and writing numerous books on UNIX, security in financial services, statistics and intelligence), he began his first R&D role in security in 2002, joining the CSIRO’s Networking Applications and Technologies (NAT) Group, and leading a programme in secure, distributed storage.

After moving to Macquarie University in Sydney, Dr Watters established the first cybercrime research laboratory in Australasia in 2006, in partnership with Dr Stephen McCombie, with the support of National Australia Bank (NAB). Dr Watters and Dr McCombie went on to win Australia’s first competitive research grant in phishing (ARC Linkage), with Professor Josef Pieprzyk. His work at Macquarie led to improvements in threat detection and response at NAB. He also worked as an expert witness, and developed the first cybercrime and cyber terrorism course at an Australian university.

After a stint dealing with security and privacy of electronic health records at the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom, Dr Watters moved to the University of Ballarat in 2008, to become the first Research Director of the Internet Commerce Security Laboratory (ICSL), a partnership between Westpac, IBM, the State Government of Victoria, and the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The ICSL’s goal was to build capability in the cybercrime field, and to make Victoria the state of choice to undertake this type of work. In addition to numerous research publications, and skilled graduates who now protect Australia’s cyber frontline, the ICSL also produced significant outcomes for its research partners in the areas of threat mitigation (phishing, malware, identity theft, scams, piracy, child exploitation) and intelligence gathering. Dr Watters undertook consultancies for numerous external clients, including the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), the Attorney General’s Department (AGD) and Google. While on sabbatical with the AFP, he developed an approach to detecting drug deals online.

In 2013, Dr Watters took up a Professorship in IT at Massey University in New Zealand. He continued his work in online threats, especially focusing on advertising as a vector for malware delivery and social harms. He also won two Callaghan Innovation grants to develop new algorithms for data analytics. He partnered with NGOs such End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) to systematically examine the links between film piracy and the proliferation of child abuse material online.

In 2015, Dr Watters also became an Adjunct Professor at Unitec Institute of Technology, the home of New Zealand’s first cyber security research centre. In recognition of his track record combating child abuse material online, he received an ARC Discovery grant in 2015 with colleagues at the University of Tasmania, University of Canberra and University College London.

Dr Watters is Professor of cyber security at La Trobe University in Melbourne.