Facebook privacy scandals. Election hacking. Data breaches. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep up with the tumultuous worlds spinning behind our computer screens—and the myriad ways they impact our lives.
BU’s Cyber Security, Law & Society Alliance—or Cyber Alliance—was created to help with that. The new collaboration between our computer science researchers, law professors, and social scientists is squarely focused on the complex and ever-shifting legal, ethical, and societal questions that spring from our technology-driven and networked worlds.
The Cyber Alliance operates under the umbrella of BU’s Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering, a University-wide institute that supports computational and data-driven research across all academic disciplines.
Last year, the Cyber Alliance put on a seminar series to explore the interaction between cybersecurity technology, law, and policy; invited experts in the field to speak at BU; met with US congressional staffers; and collaborated on transdisciplinary scholarship.
Additionally, faculty have created innovative courses for students. Associate Professor of Law Ahmed Ghappour and Computer Science Professor Ran Canetti cotaught Privacy, Security, and Technology, which grouped law and computer science students together to write articles about current issues at the intersection of technology and law.
One of the Cyber Alliance cofounders, Mayank Varia, a research associate professor of computer science and codirector of the Hariri Institute’s Center for Reliable Information Systems & Cyber Security, says that while there’s no denying the dizzying speed of technological advancement, he is confident society can keep up with its attendant quandaries. Breaches in cybersecurity were possible 30 years ago, he notes, it’s just that the scale of those outcomes has become bigger.
“I think an important step here is for us in the cybersecurity area to educate lawmakers and regulators about how technologies currently work and what they are capable of doing,” Varia says. “Our hope is to make BU a recognized center of excellence in this area where we can positively influence the next generation of policy and policymakers.”