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School of Engineering

Fostering cybersecurity policy research

Wednesday, April 10, 2019
On April 5 and 6, Tufts University hosted its first student symposium in cybersecurity policy, welcoming researchers to discuss the field.
Symposium attendees seated in rows of chairs listen to a panel of three people sitting at a table at the front of the room.
Attendees listen to panelists discussing research. Photo: Jake Belcher.

By necessity, cyber security as a field crosses disciplinary boundaries. At Tufts University, researchers studying cyber security and policy include faculty and students from the Department of Computer Science in the School of Engineering, from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and from the Department of Political Science in the School of Arts and Sciences.

As part of Tufts' interdisciplinary efforts to encourage continued growth in the areas of cyber security and policy, the university hosted the inaugural Student Symposium in Cybersecurity Policy on April 5 and 6, 2019. More than 100 faculty members, students, alumni, staff, and industry partners attended across the two-day symposium, representing 35 institutions. The symposium welcomed attendees from as close as The Fletcher School, just a short walk across the Green, and as far as Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Brazil.

Authors presented six papers during the symposium, each alongside two discussants to raise questions and help further the conversation, with plenty of time for questions from a highly engaged audience. Topics ranged from international legal uncertainty in cyberlaw, to the effectiveness of investing resources in publicly observable institutional changes as a deterrence to cyber attacks, to understanding if government hacking is a viable alternative to encryption regulation.

Across both days of the symposium, attendees brought their expertise together and held conversations that bridged technology, law, and governance. In one panel discussing Yale Law School student fellow Mailyn Fidler's work on the trickle-down of sophisticated surveillance technology from the federal government to state and local law enforcement, discussant Kade Crawford, director of ACLU Massachusetts' Technology for Liberty Program, pointed out that technology has outpaced the law. Audience members raised questions about how to ensure that judges, politicians, and municipal leaders receive sufficient training and technological know-how to make informed decisions. While attendees generally agreed that broader solutions would require both financial investment and political will, possible steps discussed included privacy oversight advisory boards like those in Oakland, California and Seattle, Washington.

The symposium's keynote speech was delivered by Adam Segal, the Ira A. Lipman chair in emerging technologies and national security and the director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Segal, an alumnus of The Fletcher School's M.A. in Law and Diplomacy program, spoke on the evolution of the Chinese government's approach to and concerns regarding cyber security. With China now one of the largest spenders in the world on research and development, second only to the United States, Segal discussed recent changes in Chinese policy regarding cyber security and what that could mean for a next generation of emerging technology.

Bridge Professor Susan Landau, who holds appointments in both The Fletcher School and the School of Engineering's Department of Computer Science, closed the symposium on Saturday afternoon with remarks on metadata related to technology, law, and policy.

The symposium broadened the reach of research and helped foster a community of young cybersecurity scholars on the Tufts campus and beyond. Organizers plan to make it an annual event on the Tufts campus.

Funding for the 2019 Student Symposium in Cybersecurity Policy was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.