Chair’s Message | Possible Futures for SCP

March 12, 2021

Dear Cybersecurity and Privacy community,

I read and respond to all correspondence (if you sent me something and have not heard back from me yet, please send it again), but I don’t always have time to expand on ideas that deserve a fuller discussion. There were a dozen emails this week about my short summary of SCP’s first faculty retreat. It’s a little unfair to characterize questions that were well-intentioned and deserve deeper discussion, but bear with me. Many of you ask, “Why, among all the things SCP might emphasize, are you choosing X and not Y?” These are excellent questions but answering all the (X,Y) instances may not be especially informative.

Aside from the obvious (to me, at least) answer that we are not yet at the choosing stage, my stock response, is “Good question! Why not help us explore it in more detail?” We are at the beginning stage of a process that will play out over months and, if we are successful, years.  Here are some of the recurring phrases I captured in these initial discussions:

  • Leverage campus resources to scaffold student success
  • Curriculum with diverse paths for students
  • Diverse student population
  • Engage industry to provide students project-based learning and capstone course opportunities
  • Integrate security/privacy modules across all colleges’ core curriculum
  • Build demand for graduate training by appealing to undergraduates
  • Opportunities for faculty to work with student research assistants

In effect, these are snapshots of possible futures for SCP. For the most part, they focus on students and reflect not only underlying principles but also the economic reality that SCP will succeed only if our students do. In the coming weeks, I will point you to Georgia Tech’s new ten-year strategic plan  and the report of the commission I co-chaired on the future of Georgia Tech education.

The most common (X,Y) questions have to do with whether SCP courses, programs, or degrees require technical proficiency as opposed to equally rigorous preparation in a non-technical field.  “As opposed to…” strikes me as a false choice. A much more interesting question is how X and Y are related. This was a week rich in examples of how that might work. Yesterday SCP co-hosted (with the School of Modern Languages) a roundtable event entitled “21st Century Cybersecurity: The Critical Role of Critical Languages in Advancing Multilingual and Cross-Culteral National Security Approaches, Competencies, and Perspectives.” The guest speaker was Dr. Michael Nugent, who directs the Defense Language and National Security Education Office.   Dr. Nugent’s summary of relevant programs and the panel discussion I moderated tied together the needs of cybersecurity in a globally connected world and multilanguage/cross-cultural research and education.

Jon Lindsay’s SCP seminar  (also yesterday) on the relationship between cyber conflict and intelligence practice is another example. Jon is a political scientist and expert in military intelligence with a deep knowledge of cybersecurity who argues, “Cyberspace is the most complex sociotechnical information system ever built, and cyber conflict is essentially just intelligence competition within it.”

So, as you formulate your own (X,Y) questions, consider how you might spark conversations like these. We are at the starting point of our planning process and mindful that most of the interesting questions have not been answered. You can reach out to any faculty on the school’s committees or the executive committee leadership to let us know of your interest in engaging.

Other items worth knowing about this week:

  • Among our student successes, year-over-year growth for the Online MS in Cybersecurity program from 2019 to 2020 was 16% with 2021 on track to exceed that (based on spring enrollments). The program has enrolled more than 1,000 students to date.
  • Mustaque Ahamad, professor in computer science, reminded me that the original MS in Cybersecurity started in 2002. So we have a big birthday to celebrate next year. Georgia Tech was early to the game in offering a graduate cybersecurity degree, and I think this reinforces why our next steps in the curriculum are so important. We need to be early to defining what the job market will expect in terms of skills and diversity in the future.
  • Putting a face on our student success stories is equally as important. March is Women’s History Month and we are celebrating with highlights of women in our community. Becky Borrebach, an OMS Cyber student and U.S. Army captain stationed in Hawaii, is on track this spring to be one of the first female graduates in the program. One parallel that Becky made between the Army and Georgia Tech was that both organizations want the best people, regardless of gender. That testament, from a student who has never sat in a classroom on campus, is encouraging as we look to the future in growing our degree programs. You can read Becky’s story here.
  • The school has also created a snapshot of women faculty and research scientists at Georgia Tech whose work is centered on or connected to cybersecurity and privacy. It shows a part of the diversity of education and research expertise across campus.
  • And speaking of diversity, a recent industry report from global cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike finds that Georgia Tech is doing comparatively well when it comes to the gender diversity of its computer science (CS) faculty. We’re ranked #2.
  • Today’s virtual cybersecurity lecture at noon is on a hot topic: deep fakes. Hany Farid, professor at the University of California at Berkeley presents on “Creating, Weaponizing, and Detecting Deep Fakes.” His research focuses on digital forensics, forensic science, misinformation, image analysis, and human perception.

Next week’s events include faculty candidate talks, a fireside chat with CS alumnus and cybersecurity expert Paul Judge, and our first workshop for the Georgia Cybersecurity and Privacy Roadmap Taskforce.

See you this afternoon for the chair’s virtual open office hour (1 pm ET).


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

Visit me at   
Follow me on Twitter @rad_atl and @richde