School of Information announces new cybersecurity program

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UC Berkeley announced Tuesday that with the aid of a grant, an interdisciplinary program that will assess the future paths of cybersecurity.

The Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity is funded by a $15 million grant from the the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Cyber Initiative. The center, based out of UC Berkeley’s School of Information, is an interdisciplinary program drawing faculty from many fields including computer science, public policy and law.

The center hopes to frame the type of issues that may arise in the future of cybersecurity in order to pave the way for the development of tools to solve these issues.

“We need to skate to where the puck will be, not where it is,” said Steven Weber, a professor at the School of Information and the political science department. “There’s a set of problems that define cyber security today. In order to make progress, we need to think in a different way. We need to make our solutions to future problems, not today’s problems.”

In its first year, the center will conduct “scenario planning” — which entails predicting future cybersecurity problems — according to AnnaLee Saxenian, dean and professor at the School of Information. The center plans to draw on expertise in various campus departments as well as experts across the country and internationally.

After its first year, the center will focus its attention to funding interdisciplinary research to solve the issues it identified.

“It will be a crosscampus initiative because we want to do research that will really help inform policy makers,” Saxenian said. “One challenge you often have is that if you’re an engineer, you’re not really sure how people will respond (to your design). It’s one thing to design something and another thing to roll it out.”

The center was established alongside two similar initiatives at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University. Each center received $15 million in funding as part of the $65 million the the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Cyber Initiative has planned to contribute to the field over the next five years. The foundation’s initiative aims to pave the way for a new field of cyber policy analysis.

MIT’s Cybersecurity Policy Initiative aims to create quantitative and qualitative standards of measuring cyber security in order to better inform policy makers. Stanford’s Cyber Initiative will address the balance between security and privacy in internet use. MIT and Stanford’s programs will also take an interdisciplinary approach to the issues surrounding cyber security.

“The question of cyber security is becoming the main problem of the internet era,” Weber said. “It is the one thing that stands between what the internet could do for society. It’s the single biggest roadblock out there.”

Contact Sonja Hutson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.