Chair’s Message | Forward Momentum, and an Election

Nov. 6, 2020 

Dear Cybersecurity and Privacy community, 

Everything seemed to take a backseat to national politics this week, but the elections were also an opportunity for SCP and our colleagues across the campus to make important contributions to cybersecurity and privacy for voting. McCamish Pavilion served as a polling location for the election and it was completely staffed by students, one of the first locations with that distinction. A unified effort at the institute brought together the Secure and Safe Elections Research Group, with leadership from SCP, the College of Computing, and the College of Engineering. The group is analyzing the entire ecosystem of modern elections to develop tools that make voting more transparent with new approaches to modern voting systems. These are just two examples of the engagement with our electoral process. 

Next week’s meeting of the newly appointed Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) is a milestone for the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy, and we have been hard at work to create an active and engaged community of advisors. Chaired by GT Computing alumna and Northrop Grumman CISO Phyllis Schneck, this board will help SCP refine programs and services that are responsive to the needs of the industry and government organizations that will employ our alumni. My charge to the board is to keep our academic offerings grounded in the reality of cybersecurity and the societal challenges that face us all. We are fortunate to live in one of the nation’s most active communities of cybersecurity companies, and the SCP faculty who will develop courses and curricula are delighted to have stakeholders from such a broad range of companies as partners. I will share with you the results of their deliberations in next week’s letter. 

What’s next on my to-do list? It’s a sign of progress that the number of tasks is growing, although it is a little disconcerting to wake up in the morning to find new items with 2 a.m. timestamps. We are accelerating the process of adding faculty members to the school and identifying the committees that will handle everything from hiring and curriculum to research and facilities. Sometimes academic departments worry about defending turf and defining disciplinary boundaries. That’s not our approach. While the foundations of the field are important, everyone we talk to outside academia points us to skills and knowledge that lie just beyond technical mastery. Sometimes these are called “soft” skills. I don’t think it’s an apt (or appealing) description. For one thing, it gives the impression that they are not difficult to learn. I prefer to think of T-shaped skills. The vertical line of the T represents technical depth. The horizontal arm represents the skills that cut across disciplinary boundaries. It’s the horizontal skills that employers tell us repeatedly are the important ones for success. Much of my time these days is spent meeting with specialists in adjacent fields to discuss how those skills apply to our students. So, when you hear me talk about the porous boundaries of SCP, think about those adjacencies and what competitive advantages they might convey to our newly formed school.  

I had the opportunity to talk with many of you recently during the school chair’s open office hours, which will be weekly on Fridays at 1 p.m. EDT. I enjoyed listening and learning from students and faculty alike and hope you’ll take advantage of this time. I will be at the virtual meetup today, and I hope you can find a few minutes to stop in to say “hi.”  

Don’t miss the weekly virtual cybersecurity lecture series at noon. Youngwook Do, a Georgia Tech Cybersecurity Ph.D. Fellow, shares his work on novel ways to secure devices many of us use every day. 


Richard DeMillo
Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Chair of Computing
Chair, School of Cybersecurity and Privacy  

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