PhD position on negotiation with ransomewarecriminals

The Centrum voor Veiligheid en Digitalisering (Centre for Safety and Digitalisation, CVD) is a knowledge institute in which companies and public organisations are collaborating on questions related to this theme. In this context,  the University of Twente, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, and the Police Academy of the Netherlands are setting up a joint research program around this time. The research program is centered around the 3 focus areas of the CVD: critical data & infrastructure, actionable intelligence and cyberresilience.

For each research line, they are looking for two PhD students to work on this theme. The PhD students will work in a multidisciplinary fashion, in close collaboration with each other, and with the supervision teams with members from the different CVD partners.

How can largescale public and private organizations develop a resilient first response strategy against ransomware attacks? Want to help answering this question? Apply now!

Lees hieronder de hele vacature

Vacature details

Geplaatst op
Aantal uur

Functie omschrijving

About the Project:

"Your files have been locked. If you would like to access your files you need to pay.” This message is the start of the worst nightmare of many public and private organizations today. In literature this phenomenon is known as ransomware: ‘(...) a subset of malware in which the data on a victim's computer is locked -- typically by encryption -- and payment is demanded before the ransomed data is decrypted and access is returned to the victim’. Since almost 15 years, ransomware is considered a rapidly growing threat to organizations around the globe,  evolving from random attacks on small and medium-sized enterprises with smaller ransom rates (around 5.000 euros) to targeted and highly prepared attacks on larger public and private organizations demanding larger ransom rates (over 100.000 euros). While the smaller demands are paid in most situations, the larger demands trigger a different response. Sometimes simply because an organization does not have or cannot directly access such large amounts of money, or because of more normative considerations to limit financing or rewarding crime. This, instead of directly complying to the requests of the attacker, the actual ransom rate and payment deadline become the result of a negotiation process between the targeted organizations and the attackers.

Till date, however, surprisingly little is known about the process from receiving a ransomware message to the negotiation process and the ultimate outcome. This is particularly remarkable given the societal impact of ransomware since it may e.g., cause loss of production, trade, nuisance for costumers, reputational damage, and loss of data. This PhD project attempts to open this black box by examining real-world cases. Next to increasing teir knowledge on the ransomware negotiation process, they especially search for effective countering strategies. They will use the knowledge on this process as input for a resilience training for organizations on how to first respond to ransomware attacks.

In this PhD project you will be supervised by Ellen Giebels (University of Twente), Remco van Spithoven (Saxion) and Miriam Oostinga (University of Twente).


Your profile:

  • You are an enthusiastic and highly motivated researcher.
  • You have, or will shortly acquire a MSc degree in social sciences (e.g., Psychology, Communication Sciences) preferably in relation to safety topics. 
  • You already have experience with crisis negotiations and/or social sciences in the cybersecurity domain (pré).
  • You embrace the UT motto High Tech Human Touch and see(k) opportunities in a technical environment and with our state-of-the-art BMSlab.
  • You enjoy working in multidisciplinary teams as well as with partners from practice. 
  • You are creative, dedicated, and a proven team-player.
  • You are interested in participating in educational activities (for practice).
  • You are proficient in English (verbal and written).


Their offer:

  • As a PhD student at UT, you will be appointed to a full-time position for four years, with a qualifier in the first year, within a very stimulating and exciting scientific environment;
  • The University and partner institutes offer a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues;
  • Your salary and associated conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU);
  • You will receive a gross monthly salary ranging from € 2.443,- (first year) to € 3.122,- (fourth year);
  • There are excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme;
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid);
  • You will have a training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a plan for a suitable education and supervision;
  • Part of this training programme will be filled by training developed especially by the CVD partners;
  • They encourage a high degree of responsibility and independence while collaborating with close colleagues, researchers and other staff.

Bedrijfsprofiel Universiteit Twente

About the organization:

The Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social sciences (BMS) aims to play a key role in understanding, jointly developing and evaluating innovations in society. Technological developments are the engine of innovation. As a technical university that puts people first, they tailor them to human needs and behavior and use social engineering to integrate them into society. They also ensure adequate governance at public and private level, and robust, inclusive and fair organizational structures. They do this by developing, sharing and applying high-quality knowledge in Psychology, Business Administration, Public Administration, Communication Sciences, Philosophy, Educational Sciences and Health Sciences. Our research and education in these disciplines revolves around tackling and solving societal challenges. The research programs of BMS are closely linked to the research of the UT institutes Mesa+ Institute for Nanotechnology, TechMed Center and Digital Society Institute.

About the department:

The Technology of Human and Institutional Behavior department

The HIB-department is one of four departments at the Behavioural Management and Social sciences faculty. The department is committed to design, evaluation, and implementation of and teaching about comprehensive technology-based solutions supporting people in behavior that promotes their health, safety, resilience, connectedness, and joy. The HIB-department comprises sections of Communication Science; Psychology, Health & Technology; Psychology of Conflict, Risk and Safety; and Public Administration.


By clicking the application button, you will be navigated to the website of the University of Twente. In case the link is not working anymore, the vacancy has expired and you will no longer be able to apply. We try to keep our job database as up-to-date as possible, we would very much appreciate it if you could let us know in case a link is not working? You can do this by sending an e-mail to 

Would you like to be kept up-to-date about other interesting jobs in Twente, then sign up here and create your own job account!

Meer informatie

Drienerlolaan 5
053 - 4899 111