Carnegie Mellon University

Institute for Politics and Strategy Launches New Minor in Cybersecurity and International Conflict

November 09, 2018

Institute for Politics and Strategy Launches New Minor in Cybersecurity and International Conflict

By Hillary Tanoff
Media inquiries: Abby Simmons

Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS) launched an undergraduate minor in cybersecurity and international conflict in fall 2018. The cybersecurity and international conflict minor tackles the social-scientific dimensions of cybersecurity with a focus on the implications of the cyber age for modern statecraft, warfare, elections (local, state and national), and politics, more generally.

IPS created the new minor in response to growing concerns over the divide between cybersecurity and regulation by government, as well as concerns over public and private sector cybersecurity capabilities.

“The new minor in cybersecurity and international conflict brings together some of the most important issues facing both nation-states and non-state actors today, from hacking and network defense, to mercenaries and cyber-warfare capabilities of near peer adversaries,” said Colin Clarke, an assistant teaching professor in IPS who teaches a number of core classes for the new minor.

The undergraduate minor has already enrolled students. Radhika Gupta, a junior majoring in computer science, values the minor because it “allows me to learn about the policy side of cybersecurity, while my major in computer science gives me the technical expertise in cybersecurity. Just knowing the technical details isn't enough, because in the end, I want to know what I am building, why I am building it and who it's going to impact."

The minor aims to give students foundational knowledge in the strategy surrounding cybersecurity. The emphasis on strategy and political concerns supplements a technical degree. Additionally, basic knowledge of technology concepts regarding cybersecurity supplements a social science degree.

Currently enrolled students like Alison Munden, a junior majoring in international relations and politics (IRP), recognize the supplementary value in the new minor.

“The coursework develops my understanding [of] the actual components and processes of cybersecurity and warfare — both common topics of policy discussions in IRP courses. Cybersecurity is particularly relevant in politics today, yet background knowledge of it is fairly rare in the political arena. The minor develops skills that differentiate my education from the average international relations or political science curriculum,” Munden said.

CMU values interdisciplinary research and programs, as does its students.

“Studying computer science involves a lot of math problems and writing lots of code, so it's nice to take some classes that give some context into how those technical skills can be relevant to global politics and the national security interests of the United States. It's also refreshing to see a mixture of students from an engineering background, as well as students from a humanities background,” said Alex Smith, a senior majoring in computer science with a minor in cybersecurity and international conflict.

Along with the new minor in cybersecurity and international conflict, IPS is raising the profile of cybersecurity policy by bringing cybersecurity experts to campus through the Center for International Relations and Politics (CIRP) Policy Forum. At 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14, Clint Watts will discuss the misinformation campaigns, fake news and electronic espionage operations that have become the cutting edge of modern warfare — and how we can protect ourselves and our country against them. Watts is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at The George Washington University, and a former FBI Special Agent and U.S. Army officer.

CIRP will also host J.M. Berger, author of “Extremism,” research fellow with VOX-Pol, and postgraduate researcher at Swansea University's School of Law, at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27, for the talk, “Analyzing Extremist Ideologies, Online and Offline.” Berger will discuss the new threats posed by the use of technological tools by extremists.

IPS expects the program to grow in the coming years. Cybersecurity has become prevalent as a policy concern, with no easy solutions in sight.