#SPACyber News & Events

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Phone: (202) 885-2940

Graduate programs: spagrad@american.edu

Undergraduate programs: aupublicaffairs@american.edu

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Public Affairs, School of 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

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#SPACyber is a practioner informed, research driven hub of cyber curriculum, thought leadership, and engagement. Focused on the national and homeland security implications of the internet our faculty, students, and partners collaborate around the common goal of understanding and ultimately informing U.S. cyber policy and the organizational structures and leaders who drive it.

For more information about the Cyber Policy & Management graduate certificate, contact the SPA Cyber Certificate team at spacybercert@american.edu.

James Burrell coauthors book chapter in Trends of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data for E-Health

Trends of Artificial Intelligence book coverAbstract: Embarking on a Medical Artificial Intelligence (AI) or  Big Data project includes the integration of a myriad of medical devices, wireless technologies, data warehouses, and even social networks. Cybersecurity threats are not entirely new to healthcare, but have certainly become more abundant with advent of medical AI research in radiology and were identified as one of the major healthcare risks of 2021. Many clinicians are undertaking such projects and may not have relevant training in AI and Big Data specific cybersecurity concerns. Fortunately healthcare providers and device manufacturers have the advantage of being able to take inspiration from other industries that are leading the way in the field. This review seeks to provide an introduction to cybersecurity as it pertains to healthcare, a background to both general and healthcare specific cybersecurity challenges, general approaches to improving security through both detection and preventative techniques, and ways that technology can increase security while mitigating risks. Read more.

Twitter Verified Status Is a National Security Issue

Social Media logos on phoneSPA Graduate Student Trevaughn Smith published an article in The Public Purpose about the dangers posed by Twitter's verification turning into a paid feature.
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National Archives Pioneer Pamela Wright Honored at American University

Pamela Wright’s work in fostering digital accessibility was honored with American University’s 2022 Outstanding Inclusive Technology Policy Changemaker Award.
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Sasha O'Connell at Washington Post Live event

Securing Cyberspace

On October 13, 2022, Professor Sasha O'Connell took part in a Washington Post Live policy discussion titled Securing Cyberspace: An All-Hands Effort. O'Connell was joined by Chris DeRusha, Federal CISO, and Adam Meyers, Senior VP of Intelligence at CrowdStrike. Watch the video of this segment.

Clarissa Gallo with Sylvia Burwell

Global Emerging Technology Summit

On September 16th, 2022, dozens of scholars, federal employees, policymakers, and technology professionals assembled at the first-ever Global Emerging Technology Summit. Hosted by the bipartisan, nonprofit Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP), the event convened technology leaders from across sectors to discuss the national status quo on emerging technologies, and how to sustain the U.S.’ competitive advantage over a fast-developing China.

The impressive slate of lecturers and panelists included AU President Sylvia Burwell, Condoleezza Rice, and Henry Kissinger. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan opened the summit by explaining the four pillars of America's tech strategy: 1) investing in our science and technology ecosystem; 2) nurturing top-STEM talent; 3) protecting our technology advantages; and 4) optimizing allies and partnerships. Panels covered the future of geopolitics, democracy, innovation, platforms, and warfare.

President Burwell explicated the role of student engagement.
"At a university you are a microcosm of all of these problems, whether it is the misuse of technology and misinformation…and the division and the divisiveness in terms of undermining democracy," said Burwell. "At American University, we tell our students three things: get your facts; take it off social [media]; and get it in a room. By Princeton Review's standing, we are the most politically-active campus in the nation's capital."
Kissinger, who served as national security advisor under Nixon and Ford, spoke on the race with China. “The fundamental challenge is [to] protect the security of the country, and, at the same time, leave open a vision of the future, and to do all of that without destroying humanity,” he said.
The Global Emerging Technology Summit painted an optimistic picture of the United States’ technological future while cautioning participants on the potential harm from misuse and abuse of such powerful innovations. For more information, visit the SCSP website.

SPA was proud to adapt this piece from a blog post by student Clarissa Gallo (MS THSP, `23), who represented the school at the SCSP event.

collage of women in cybersecurity

Diana Burley Recognized by R Street Institute

Diana Burley, American University's Vice Provost for Research and SPA Professor of Public Administration and Policy, was named one of the 21 Women in Cybersecurity You Need to Know by R Street Institute.

Ayan Islam

Ayan Islam to Teach Cyber Threats and Security Course

Ayan Islam is a Critical Infrastructure Portfolio Lead and IT Specialist with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). In her role, she leads a team of vulnerability analysts and penetration testers analyzing vulnerabilities and developing tailored mitigation recommendations to inform critical infrastructure stakeholders for enhanced organizational IT/OT security posture.

Also, as a Cybersecurity Strategist, she advises senior leadership, examines strategic direction for special initiatives, and provides program and project management on varying cybersecurity efforts.

Ayan has an LL.M. in Law and Government with a National Security Law and Policy specialization from American University Washington College of Law; Juris Doctor from University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law; Master of Arts in Communications and Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University; and a Bachelor of Science Business Administration from American University Kogod School of Business.

Ayan will be teaching JLC-683 Cyber Threats and Security in Spring 2022.

Tech policy group

AU Group Pushing Inclusive Approach to Tech Policy

A new inclusive tech policy group brings together AU’s experts on technology, security, and science who shape decisions and policies at the national and global level.

Divya Ramjee.

SPA’s Divya Ramjee Awarded Gill Family Foundation Scholarship

We are pleased to announce that Divya Ramjee is this year’s winner of the Gill Family Foundation scholarship. The Gill Family Foundation scholarship supports dissertation work at American University that uses quantitative methods in the areas of American Politics, Comparative Politics, Public Administration, or Policy Analysis.

Ms. Ramjee is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Justice, Law & Criminology at American University, as well as an adjunct instructor at the School of Public Affairs and at the Washington College of Law. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security, Innovation, and New Technology and a Student Fellow for Washington College of Law's Tech, Law & Security program. Her research interests include cybercrime and cyber-enabled crime, cyber and tech policy, NLP and text analysis, and statistical methodology. She holds MS degrees from the Johns Hopkins University and BS degrees from the Ohio State University.

Learn more about the Gill Family Foundation scholarship.

The Great Facebook Outage of 2021

Professor James Burrell and Professor Sasha O'Connell, Director of SPA's Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy Program, conducted a Speed Round Policy Explainer on the Facebook Outage of October 4, 2021, and discussed #SPACyber and the themes addressed at the School of Public Affairs.

SPA studnet Ellis Cherer with AU Vice Provost Diana Burley and National Cyber Director Chris Inglis

Top Cyber Officials Kick Off Inaugural AU Changemaker Award Event

Ellis Scherer, current Terrorism & Homeland Security Policy and Cyber Policy and Management student, attended this inaugural event and shared his reflections. This VIP event included a keynote address from National Cyber Director Chris Inglis and remarks from Changemaker Award recipient Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the United Nation’s ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.

Past Events

Adam Lee

Building A Career in Cybersecurity & Protecting Our Nation's Critical Infrastructure

American University's School of Public Affairs students had the opportunity to meet with Adam Lee, Vice President and Chief Security Officer for Dominion Energy. Adam's team protects an energy company that employs 17,000 people, serves 7 million customers across 13 states, and has a market capitalization of over $61 billion. He is also a former FBI division chief who spoke with students about his remarkable career as well as current cyber threats and challenges as well as strategies for response and resilience in this environment.

National Security Cyber Careers in the Federal Government

March 17 | 12– 1:30pm | Online

The School of Public Affairs at American University hosted a virtual panel and Q&A session titled “National Security Cyber Careers in the Federal Government,” co-sponsored by the Pi Delta Nu chapter of the Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society and the AU SPA Tech Policy Association.

The event featured panelists who are cybersecurity experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency, United States Secret Service, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who discussed the day-to-day work of cyber professionals at their agencies, and offered their thoughts and perspectives on the unique challenges faced when addressing new cyber threats. Panelists also provided information on career paths, recruiting efforts of their agencies, eligibility requirements, and preparation recommendations.

Sasha O'Connell and Kiran Raj

Analyzing the New National Cyber Director Role

Online Talk & Interview

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 | 10:00am - 11:00am (ET)

The Cyber Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School welcomes Sasha O’Connell (SPA Executive in Residence & Director of the Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy Master's Program), Kiran Raj (SPA adjunct professor), and Tatyana Bolton (former senior policy director for the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission) in conversation with Lauren Zabierek to analyze the National Cyber Director role.

Sasha and Kiran recently published their report, The United States Needs a Cyber Director: A Roadmap for Making It Happen in 2021. You can access the Cyber Solarium Commission report here.

Life on an FBI Cyber Squad

Life on an FBI Cyber Squad

October 21 | 12-1PM ET | Online

American University's School of Public Affairs and the FBI came together to host a first-of-its-kind event, which explored a day in the life of an FBI cyber squad.

The event presented the different technical career paths at the FBI from the people who live it every day. How do a special agent, staff operations specialist, and computer scientist work together to solve a case? What skills and experiences led them down their career paths? What insights could these mid-career professionals offer future applicants?

Cybersecurity in the Remote Workforce

October 22 | 12-1PM ET | Online

Guidehouse and American University were thrilled to host a virtual panel and Q&A session titled "Cybersecurity in the Remote Workforce” as part of their National Cybersecurity Awareness Month programming.

#SPACyber Book Talk Series: Cindy Otis


In "True or False," former CIA analyst Cindy Otis took readers through the history and impact of misinformation over the centuries, sharing stories from the past and insights that readers today can gain from them. Then, she shared lessons learned in over a decade working for the CIA, including actionable tips on how to spot fake news, how to make sense of the information we receive each day, and, perhaps most importantly, how to understand and see past our own information biases, so that we can think critically about important issues and put events happening around us into context.

Curriculum Highlights

JLC-695-002 Applied Cybersecurity in Nonprofit Organizations Practicum

Implementation of information and cybersecurity programs for many organizations are challenging and, often done haphazardly, if at all. Nonprofit organizations face many similar as well as different challenges when it comes to information and cybersecurity. This course will provide students with hands-on experience in the development, delivery, and results from the analysis of cyber and information security assessment process for two local nonprofit organizations. Students will explore how NIST CSF maps to other well-known assessment frameworks including NIST SP800-53, NIST SP800- 171, COBIT 5, and ISO 27000. Students will develop the assessment tool and other research through the lens of the nonprofit environment. Students will complete a controlled assessment of a local nonprofit which will help them develop skills in assessing, through the lens of cyber and information security, a business environment. Students will utilize these skills in bridging the gap between technical jargon and non-technical audiences by preparing and presenting their assessment findings to the executive leadership of the assessed nonprofit. Students will gain a practical ability to perform an information/cybersecurity risk assessment along with the process of developing and delivering the assessment as a part of the students' learning.

Instructor: Dr. Kelley Misata, Founder & CEO, Sightline Security and Executive Director, The Open Information Security Foundation

JLC-695-001 Cyber Incident Response Practicum

This practicum will focus on developing students' knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of various key stakeholders in responding to a serious cybersecurity incident. Students will learn how the U.S. government approaches cyber incidents from a legal, policy, and operational perspective, and how industry, the media, and partner nations must balance the challenges around a quickly unfolding cyber incident with incomplete information. Students will conduct a hands-on simulation of a National Security Council meeting, and role-play media companies, industry groups, and other affected organizations utilizing the policy analysis skills developed throughout this course. As part of the exercise, students will provide policy options to cabinet officials and advocate for particular actions. Following the simulation, students will have the opportunity to brief senior U.S. government officials in key cybersecurity agencies, as well as other cybersecurity experts. Students will gain a practical ability to prepare an incident response plan and develop concise, actionable written and oral policy options.

Iranga Kahangama, Director for Cyber Policy, National Security Council
Jonah Hill, Cyber Security Strategist, U.S. Secret Service

"Cyber policy is a dynamic and quickly-evolving area of U.S. national security policymaking. We're excited to share our experiences with the AU community and to offer a practicum that allows students to understand the challenges and options for responding to a cyber incident at a national level." - Jonah Hill, Instructor

"I’m looking forward to helping develop a strong talent pipeline for public service in the cyber policy sphere” - Iranga Kahangama, Instructor

student on high-tech chalkboard depiction

Achievements ·

SPA Launches New Cyber Certificate

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Report Cover

Announcement ·

New American University Report Underscores a Critical Need for a National Cybersecurity Director

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Atlantic Council, CYBER 2/12 Strategy Challenge. Washington DC March 20-21, 2020.

Achievements ·

SPA Team Wins Cybersecurity Competition

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MS Terrorism & Homeland Security Policy

MS Terrorism & Homeland Security Policy

From tactical approaches to strategic solutions.

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For more information about the Cyber Policy & Management graduate certificate, contact the SPA Cyber Certificate team at spacybercert@american.edu.