A Boost for Cybersecurity Policy Analysis

$45 Million in Grants to Support 3 Universities' Initiatives
A Boost for Cybersecurity Policy Analysis
Larry Kramer

Larry Kramer, the president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, says developing cybersecurity policy today is more challenging than creating the mutually assured destruction theory that arose six decades ago as a defense against a nuclear attack.

"We think cyber is in that place now; it's like 1950," Kramer says in an interview with Information Security Media Group. "It's more complicated, and there are more actors, but everybody is kind of plunging ahead, dealing with what's in front of them, without thinking, 'How is this supposed to work out in the long run?'"

The Hewlett Foundation recently established three academic initiatives focused on laying the cornerstone for sustainable public policy to deal with the growing cyberthreats faced by governments, businesses and individuals. The foundation awarded $15 million each to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley to generate a robust "marketplace of ideas" about how best to enhance the trustworthiness of computer systems and appropriately balance rights of privacy, the need for data security, innovation and the broader public interest.

The university-based programs are aimed at "getting people to think about that bigger problem [of a cyber-Armageddon] so we have ... a framework that people can use to prevent this from turning into a disaster," Kramer says.

In the interview, Kramer discusses how each school will invest its $15 million award:

  • MIT will bring together scholars from three key disciplines - engineering, social science and management - to lead in the development of a more sophisticated understanding of the security behavior of large-scale digital systems.
  • Stanford will apply broad campus expertise to the diverse challenges and opportunities that cybersecurity, cyberspace and networked information pose, focusing on the core themes of trustworthiness, governance and the unexpected impacts of technological change.
  • UC Berkeley's School of Information will create a Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity that will conduct interdisciplinary research and offer graduate education in information management, information network and service design, information and data science and the legal, ethical and policy implications of a data-centric world.

Kramer has been president of the Hewlett Foundation since September 2012. The foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development and population, performing arts and philanthropy. From 2004 to 2012, Kramer served as the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and dean at Stanford Law School.

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