Researching Cyber Security

MCC Professor Helen Nissenbaum was part of a panel of experts at a briefing this week on cyber security for Foreign Press sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Public Affairs and the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering.

Meeting in the newly launched Urban Future incubator, participants from the Department of Homeland Security, the NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication, along with representatives from private companies specializing in computer forensics and cyber-crime, joined NYU faculty to discuss current and emerging threats and the research undertaken on numerous fronts to develop more sophisticated insight into increasingly complex and crippling cyber intrusions.

Engineering Professor Nasir Memon began the session by highlighting the need for interdisciplinary research and expertise. "Security is a process," Memon explained, posing not simply an engineering problem, but a legal, economic, behavioral, and public policy challenge.

Memon and Nissenbaum are co-directors of the NYU Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Security and Privacy (CRISSP), a collaboration between faculty across disciplines at the University.

Nissenbaum, a scholar of media and privacy, believes that digital technology is upending entrenched social and cultural norms that have long governed the appropriate flow or transmission of data and personal information. Her work looks at how technology mediates information between actors, and how it might be engineered to respect principles of appropriate transmission in the interest of both security and privacy. In her presentation, Professor Nissenbaum made the case for the inclusion of privacy considerations in discussions of cyber security, as issues like what third-party data is collected, or how it's been shared, have an outsize impact when security breaches occur.

Another panelist, Stefaan Verhulst, is co-founder of the Gov Lab at NYU and adjunct professor at MCC, teaching a popular Internet Governance graduate seminar. Verhulst spoke about the Gov Lab's involvement in the NETmundial initiative, which serves as a platform for collaboration between governments and stakeholders within the Internet governance ecosystem. Together with ICANN, the Gov Lab is developing the NETmundial Solutions Map to organize resources around issues such as Internet transparency, inclusivity, and security.

Those gathered stressed the exponential growth of cyber crime and the need to attract expertise from numerous fields to collaborate on solutions, while making the education of new talent a priority. "There are not enough people to do this work," said the agent from Homeland Security.