“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” The enduring words of Sun Tzu in The Art of War apply to more than just battle. They are true in cybersecurity, too.
In cybersecurity defense, countries need more than just expert coders. They need specialists in cyber-policies and cyber-strategies.
This is the burgeoning area where Gerald Torres ‘21 is working.
An Honors College graduate with a rare combination of cybersecurity and international relations experience, Torres is headed to Washington D.C. in August to participate in the technology and international affairs sector of the prestigious James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Gerald is one of only 15 scholars selected nationwide for Gaither Junior Fellows, and he is the only recipient from an HSI, Hispanic-Serving Institution. As FIU’s first Gaither Junior Fellow, he will research how the world can become a more cyber-secure place.
“Congress and the government are trying to get everyone to think more secure,” says Torres, who remembers well from the Edward Snowden leak how data privacy can be easily circumvented if cyber policies aren't strong. “I want to be able to help."
The stakes of cybersecurity are huge. In addition to data privacy, supply chains and many elections rely on cybersecurity. Thus, demand for jobs in the field has exploded. There are almost 600,000 open cybersecurity positions in the U.S., according to 2021 data from Cyberseek.org.
Part of the current U.S. cybersecurity strategy is exporting its cyber-knowledge to its allies. Torres has first-hand experience on this front.
In the state-sponsored Honors College’s Diplomacy Lab, Torres researched disinformation operations in elections in Latin America. He and his partners presented their research to embassy officials there.
“Gerald found that domestic political actors were far more involved in influencing political outcomes than a lot of what you hear about the Russians and the Chinese,” says Professor Brian Fonseca, director of the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy and instructor of the course.
Knowing where cyberattacks originate is just one area where policy and cybersecurity intersect. At NASA, Torres got a behind-the-scenes look at how cybersecurity and space combine at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The FIU alum has also interned at MITRE, the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute and another place which he cannot discuss due to its confidential nature.
At the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Torres will be able to research and publish editorials about the various ways in which cybersecurity intersects with society. While taking assignments from his director at the endowment, he plans to research disinformation as well as how cybersecurity and space policy fit together.
As someone who has seen the ins and outs of U.S. cybersecurity, Torres is motivated to help the U.S. become well-positioned in the cyber-landscape.
“If we had cyber policy experts to help fill the need of the hundreds of thousands of job vacancies that we have, what could we do?” Torres wonders. “What policies could we use to keep people safe? This is the kind of stuff that keeps me motivated.”