$45 million in grants fund new cybersecurity centers at UC Berkeley, MIT and Stanford

UC Berkeley, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University today (Tuesday, Nov. 18) announced the establishment of three major new academic initiatives focused on laying the foundations for effective, sustainable public policy to deal with growing cyber threats.

UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term CyberSecurity  will be organized around assessing the possible range of future paths cybersecurity might take.  (Photo by Peg Skorpinski.)

UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term CyberSecurity will be organized around assessing the possible range of future paths cybersecurity might take. (Photo by Peg Skorpinski.)

Each school will take a slightly different tack. UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity will be organized around assessing the possible range of future paths cybersecurity might take. MIT’s Cybersecurity Policy Initiative will focus on establishing quantitative metrics and qualitative models to help inform policymakers. Stanford’s Cyber Initiative will draw on the school’s extensive experience with multidisciplinary, university-wide initiatives to focus on the core themes of trustworthiness and governance of networks.

The new programs, established with $45 million in grants from the Hewlett Foundation — $15 million to each university — are supported through the foundation’s Cyber Initiative. The foundation has committed $65 million over the next five years to strengthening the nascent field of cybersecurity, the largest such commitment to date by a private donor.

“The goal of Berkeley’s new Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity is first to map out what the cybersecurity problem itself will come to mean a few years hence, and then to generate and facilitate the forward looking, interdisciplinary research efforts that will make a difference,” said Steven Weber, a UC Berkeley professor at the School of Information (I School), which will be home base for the Berkeley end of the initiative, and also a professor of political science

“We are enormously grateful to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for launching this initiative, which recognizes the importance to society of long-term cyber issues,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “Our faculty at Berkeley are perfectly suited to help lead the way in pursuing independent scholarship in this field, and we are delighted to partner on this with the Hewlett Foundation and our great peer universities.

The Hewlett Foundation’s Cyber Initiative is intended to foster the development of policy frameworks to help guide sustainable solutions, to develop trust and improve communication among the disparate actors, and to provide scholars and practitioners with needed technological and policy expertise.

The grants are intended to jumpstart a new field of cyber policy analysis and generate a robust marketplace of ideas about how best to enhance the trustworthiness of computer systems and appropriately balance rights of privacy, needs of data security, and the broader public interest.

At all three universities, the new program will connect scholars across disciplines including engineering, political science, economics, public policy, business, anthropology and information technology, and help them work collaboratively on cybersecurity and policy problems facing government, business and individuals.

“The I School’s faculty span the fields of law and policy, computer science and engineering, and the social and behavioral sciences, so we are ideally positioned to advance our thinking about the long-term future of cybersecurity,” said AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Information. “We are enthusiastic about collaborating actively with our counterparts across the Berkeley campus — from computer science, law, public policy and elsewhere — on this important initiative.”

“Choices we are making today about Internet governance and security have profound implications for the future,” said Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer. “To make those choices well, it is imperative that they be made with some sense of what lies ahead and, still more important, of where we want to go. We view these grants as providing seed capital to begin generating thoughtful options.”

“Having these three universities on board, with their global reach and world-class faculties, is a huge step in addressing one of the defining challenges of our time,” said the Hewlett Foundation’s Kramer.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation helps people build measurably better lives. It concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development and population, performing arts, and philanthropy, as well as grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. A full list of the Hewlett Foundation’s grants can be found in its online grants database.