Harris Public Policy announces first-of-its-kind initiative to inform cyber policy

Cyber Policy Initiative to offer cybersecurity training to officials at largest hacker conference

The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy today announced the creation of the new Cyber Policy Initiative (CPI), a first-of-its-kind academic initiative which will advance the emerging field of cyber policy and examine the intersection of national security, politics and technology. The CPI will provide much-needed policy guidance to governments across the globe and the broader policy community concerned with cyber issues.

CPI’s first collaboration is a partnership with DEF CON, the world’s largest and best-known hacker conference, to provide free cybersecurity training to state and local elections administrators from around the country in an effort to safeguard U.S. elections infrastructure. The training, which will take place at DEF CON 26 in Las Vegas, Nevada from Aug. 9-12, will be part of the DEF CON Vote Hacking Village.

“The Cyber Policy Initiative will help lead the way on a wide range of issues that are of increasing global importance,” said Katherine Baicker, dean and the Emmett Dedmon Professor at Harris Public Policy. “This new initiative reinforces Harris’ commitment to shaping and defining new fields in public policy, providing a broad array of opportunities for researchers and students to work together with governments to enhance cybersecurity and drive real policy impact.”

Jake Braun, a former White House liaison to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a lecturer at Harris, will serve as CPI’s executive director. CPI will be served by an advisory board of Harris faculty including Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, the Sydney Stein Professor and deputy dean at Harris, who studies game theoretic models of political violence and electoral accountability; Assoc. Prof. Anthony Fowler, who studies elections and political representation; and Asst. Prof. Austin Wright who studies global conflict and crime.

“Cybersecurity represents one of the most significant challenges confronting policymakers today,” Braun said. “Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, more than a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, child mortality rates have decreased and life expectancies have increased. However, this was accomplished at the cost of so much human suffering and damage to the earth that we are still debating today whether it was all worth it. That doesn’t have to be the way we march into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We can protect human rights and allow technology, free internet commerce and data to expand to the last two billion people as they come online.”

Cyber Policy Initiative programming will bring together Harris faculty, visiting scholars, practitioners and students interested in the intersection of cyber security and public policy. CPI represents the first comprehensive initiative, housed at a major university, intended both to train the next generation of policy leaders and to inform government cyber policy.

CPI will focus on three core activities:

  • Academics, including original research, graduate level coursework and the development of a comprehensive database of quantitative cybersecurity knowledge
  • Policy initiatives, bridging the gap between the technology community and policymakers in federal, state, local and tribal government, and assessing vulnerabilities in election systems across the globe
  • Executive education, assisting students and practitioners with new tools to combat hacking and illegal activity facilitated online

Braun, the CPI executive director, brings 15 years of national security, intelligence and technology experience to the role. He also serves as CEO of Cambridge Global Advisors and a member of the Illinois Cybersecurity Task Force and President’s Circle on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, as well as a strategic adviser to the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon on cybersecurity. Before joining University of Chicago, Braun was White House Liaison to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and deputy director for the National Security Agencies Review during the Obama presidential transition.

CPI has assembled an advisory board comprised of leading public and private sector leaders. CPI’s board members include:

  • Ambassador Douglas Lute​, former U.S. Permanent Representative of the North Atlantic Council and senior fellow at the Harvard University Belfer Center 
  • Brig. Gen. Francis X. Taylor​, former Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Sam Pitroda​, former adviser to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation and founder and former chairman of India’s Telecom Commission
  • Roseanna Ander​, Founding Executive Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, Harris School of Public Policy

—Article originally appeared on the Harris Public Policy website