The Hewlett Foundation has awarded a total of $45 million in grants to three prestigious universities to launch “major new academic centers” for cybersecurity policy research.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, will each receive $15 million to “jumpstart a new field of cyber policy analysis” and help shape a “smart, sustainable public policy to deal with the growing cyber threats faced by governments, businesses and individuals,” the private foundation announced Nov. 18.


The three new centers will aim to generate “a robust marketplace of ideas about how best to enhance the trustworthiness of computer systems and appropriately balance rights of privacy, the need for data security, innovation, and the broader public interest,” the foundation said. The new centers will bring together scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including engineering, political science, economics, public policy, business, anthropology and information technology.

Each center will have a slightly different focus. MIT’s Cybersecurity Policy Initiative will examine how large-scale systems protect themselves, why they sometimes fail, and what can be done about it. Stanford’s Cyber Initiative will study trustworthiness, network governance and the unexpected impacts of technological change. UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity will assess the possible range of future paths that cybersecurity might take.

According to MIT, cyber research challenges include: how policymakers should address security risks to personal health information; how financial institutions can reduce risk by sharing threat intelligence; developing cybersecurity policy frameworks for autonomous vehicles like unmanned aircraft and driverless cars; and how to achieve regional and global standards for online privacy and security.

 $65 million to strengthen cybersecurity

With the grants, the Hewlett Foundation said it has now committed a total of $65 million over the next five years to strengthening cybersecurity. The foundation, one of the nation’s largest, was established in 1966 by William Hewlett, co-founder of information technology firm Hewlett-Packard, and his wife Flora Hewlett.

The grant announcement comes less than two months after the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded a contract to MITRE Corp. to operate a new cybersecurity research site in the Washington, D.C., area. That center will support the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, which brings together academic, government and industry experts to help businesses secure their data and digital infrastructure.

Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, head of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, has called for greater cyber defense collaboration between the public and private sectors.

“We have got to understand each other, and I’m watching two cultures that are largely just talking past one another,” Rogers told a Nov. 15 defense conference in California, according to the Department of Defense. “Not because one is good and one is bad but because they’re two different cultures with really different views of the world around them [and] lack of familiarity with the other side.”

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Marc Selinger is a journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @marcselinger.