Power Players
Power Players

Betsy Cooper, executive director of the University of California, Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity (CLTC )

If one were to look at Betsy Cooper's long list of degrees and accomplishments, discovering she is the executive director of the University of California, Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity (CLTC) might come as a surprise, but it shouldn't as she always had an interest in security.

Cooper's impressive academic credentials start with a law degree from Yale University, to which she adds a DPhil in politics from Oxford University, a master of science in Forced Migration, also from Oxford, and a BA in Industrial Labor Relations from Cornell University.

However, despite having these definitively non-security related degrees, Cooper said there was always, buried deep down, a little bug of interest in security issues that she herself was not much aware of until she began working at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“I was supposed to work on immigration topics, but there was some turnover in my department and I was able to explore some other topic areas and I discovered that I had a nascent interest in the security space,” Cooper says.

Cooper moved to Berkley in September 2015 after she wrapped up her term of service with DHS. At the time she was not sure of her path or if she wanted to remain in Washington, D.C., but in the end took the position with the Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity as a way to expand her base of experiences and help solve problems.

“Having spent much of my career seeking to understand and resolve homeland security vulnerabilities, it is clear that the best way to tackle weaknesses in security systems is through extreme preparedness,” Cooper said in a Center press release after assuming her position. “The CLTC is uniquely positioned not only to help us better understand existing cybersecurity challenges, but to help us prepare for a future of cybersecurity we have yet to even imagine.”

The Center is part of the Berkeley School of Information and is a graduate research and education community committed to expanding access to information and to improving its usability, reliability and credibility while preserving security and privacy. Cooper's areas of focus are: homeland security; cyber and information security; long-term strategic planning; privacy and civil liberties; and law and public policy.

The Center has three primary areas of activity and Cooper's role is to oversee and grow each. The first is the Center's research efforts where it distributes grants to groups working in cybersecurity. Second, she is charged with what she called engagement or working to let the outside world know about the Center's works through the media and its own print and electronic publications.

The Center's third “prong” is education. Here Cooper and the Center have set up cybersecurity training programs for women and minorities. She notes that while the program was not challenging to get off the ground, one of the difficulties has been creating an enticing curriculum.

“We provide people with the basic training that is needed to get started – such as explaining what Tor is and the difference between HTTP and HTTPs,” Cooper says.

Before moving to Berkeley and focusing her efforts on the world of cybersecurity, Cooper worked in a variety of positions, her last at the DHS where she served as an attorney adviser to the deputy general counsel and as a policy counselor in the office of policy.

Cooper's job trail also looped through Europe where she managed projects for Atlantic Philanthropies, in Dublin; the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit in London; and the World Bank. During this period she also found the time to write more than 20 manuscripts and articles on U.S. and European immigration and refugee policy, as well as a book, Europe's Security Solution: Can Immigrant Integration Really Prevent Terrorism.

Berkeley was more than happy to have Cooper come on board. “We are excited that Betsy Cooper has joined us at CLTC,” Steve Weber, faculty director of the CLTC and professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information, said at her hiring. “She brings an outstanding record of leadership and intellectual engagement around security issues on the internet and other areas.”

One of the challenges Cooper says the cybersecurity industry and the nation must face and overcome is what she called the perceived tension that exists between those backing the need for more privacy and those looking for more security.

“We can keep something private and keep it secure, but the general feeling is these two ideas are not compatible,” she says. – Doug Olenick