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New Cybersecurity Concentration Addresses Global Threats

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Cyber Security
Panelists discussed threats to global networks during the "Conflict and Cooperation in Cyberspace: Threat and Promise?" panel held earlier this fall. Photo Credits: Shirley Araiza

As technology has become a focal point of our day to day lives, it has also changed the conversation about international security. At the Conflict and Cooperation in Cyberspace: Threat and Promise? panel discussion held in October, security experts discussed threats to global networks and other great challenges facing the world because of an emerging foreign policy concern — cybersecurity. To address this increasingly important issue, the School of International Service (SIS) has introduced a new cybersecurity concentration available to SIS master’s students. We asked Hurst Adjunct Professorial Lecturer Eric Novotny to tell us more about this new concentration.

Why is the integration of a cyberspace concentration important to the SIS academic community?

Conflicts involving states as well as non-state actors increasingly concern cyberspace, so cyber-policy is now near the top of the foreign policy agenda of many countries. New technologies are supporting development and improving our quality of life, but these technologies can also pose risks to security and stability. Both scholars and practitioners working in the foreign policy and global security field need to be informed about how conflicts in cyberspace emerge, what tools are available to analyze, prevent and manage them and how to promote effective international cooperation.

What excites you about this program? In what ways do you see this program growing in the future?

We are excited about this program because it keeps SIS at the forefront of international relations by offering courses on the critical, emerging issues in our world. The school has always looked for innovative curricular offerings so our students graduate with not just foundational knowledge, but an up-to-date understanding of the problems that practitioners are confronting in their work. At the same time, students get to take a step back from the issue and put the study of cyber policy in the larger context of global governance and foreign affairs.

As far as growth, we are just getting this concentration started but we are already receiving inquiries from current and prospective students. We want to impress upon the SIS community that cyber-policy career opportunities are growing rapidly and good policy and scholarly research can be done in this field. In many other areas of technology, such as WMDs, energy, etc., the international relations (IR) community has made significant contributions. The same is true with cyber policy.

Do you foresee any future collaborations with other university offices? For example, with the computer science program at AU?

We are always open to exploring how our students can be cross-trained with other SIS and AU programs. Right now, our priority is to get our program launched and running. But clearly there are aspects of this field that can be addressed well in other curricula. Indeed, the concentration is ripe for collaboration with other parts of the university that, for example, cover the more technical or legal aspects of cyber policy.

What do you hope students will gain from this concentration?

The gain to students is two-fold. First, we are expanding their intellectual appreciation of the important place that cyberspace has in the context of international affairs. Cyber-space is relatively new to the field, so student engagement with the issues is limited to media stories and high profile events. We want to give students a more detailed view of the field and the analytical concepts and methodological tools to conduct rigorous, evidence-based policy analysis of cyber challenges. Second, we are training practitioners that comprehend cyber policy matters and integrate them into their careers. The courses ensure any security-focused student taking this class will have a sophisticated understanding of cyber issues as well as making them appealing candidates for policy positions with a cyber focus.

How does this concentration demonstrate SIS as a leader in advancing the conversation about technology and cybersecurity?

We are definitely putting down a marker to make SIS a leader in this field. Most other IR programs offer a few courses or cobble together a program from several departments. We are focusing specifically on a concentration for students majoring in global security and foreign policy. The SIS sequence of courses is cumulative to give students well-rounded professional training in cyber policy. For example, this sequence will include a methods course to teach students some of the latest techniques in cyber policy analysis.

SIS expects the concentration in cybersecurity to be of particular interest to students in SIS’s MA programs in U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security and Global Governance, Politics, and Security.