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“Opportunities” is Dr. Elaine Korzak’s initial answer when asked what she’s most excited about as she takes over leadership of the Middlebury Institute’s Cyber Initiative. “The initiative offers a lot of potential and flexibility to try things, and I’m excited to be in a position to shape it at this juncture.”

Designed to provide an interdisciplinary platform to assess the policy impact of cyber issues on security, peace and communications in international affairs, the Cyber Initiative was launched in spring 2013. Postdoctoral Fellow Korzak came on board July 1 to lead it, fresh from fellowships with the Hoover Institution and the Center for International Security and Cooperation, both at Stanford University. Korzak earned her PhD from the Department of War Studies at King´s College London in 2014, after completing an LL.M in Public International Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Her King’s College thesis examined the applicability and adequacy of international law in regulating the use of cyber attacks by states. Korzak says her original PhD topic was going to be conventional arms control and export control laws, until she took a course from a law professor who was from Estonia, ground zero for the first politically significant cyber incident in 2007. “My professor said he had just talked with a friend of his in the Defense Ministry in Estonia about (the attack). I started reading about it and got hooked.”

Part of the appeal was the fact that cyber policy is an area of study that, even in an era of pervasive social media and the hacker-centric television series Mr. Robot, remains relatively overlooked. “A lot of things we take for granted on a daily basis depend on computers, and I was shocked at how little attention was being paid in terms of policies aimed at making sure those things continue to run smoothly.”

That has begun to change over the last few years, but the field of cyber policy remains wide open for graduate students seeking a niche where their expertise will be valued. “When I started my PhD, there were only a handful of people working on cyber,” says Korzak. The Estonia incident and publicity surrounding Stuxnet in 2010 raised the profile of cyber issues, but “there is still a shortage of trained professionals. I think anybody who comes out of graduate school wanting to shape cyber policy can have tremendous impact.”

Although she grew up in Dresden, Germany, the trilingual Korzak (German, English, Russian) has lived abroad for the last 11 years, “bouncing around from Australia to the US to the UK, Belgium, the UK again and now Monterey.” Her professional experience includes working at NATO´s Cyber Defence Section as well as the European Commission´s Directorate-General on Information Society and Media, and she continues to write about the international debate on norms in cyberspace, the topic of a book review she recently authored for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. This fall in Monterey, Korzak will teach a course designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to issues surrounding the regulation and governance of cyberspace.

Korzak believes the Institute is uniquely positioned to help students have an impact in the cyber arena, citing “the practical, policy-relevant outlook” and international focus that is “wired into” policy research at the Institute. “A lot of companies and a lot of government agencies are desperately looking for talent in this area,” says Korzak, and the Institute is well-positioned to help meet that demand.

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir