Professors gave perspectives on U.S. cybersecurity at UNL panel

The Great Plains National Security Community hosted a panel discussion Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in the Nebraska Union Auditorium to examine national security issues and foreign influence on U.S. cybersecurity, media and politics.

The panelists included John Bender, professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications; John Hibbing, professor in the Department of Political Science; Jack Beard, assistant professor in the College of Law; and Michelle Black, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science.

According to Marc Warburton, director of UNL’s national security program, the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails initiated the creation process of the event, but the problem has evolved with the use of media.

“Leaks are common, and editors deal with leakers all the time,” Bender said. “The difference now with social media is that editors are not able to tell their audiences who these people are.”

Although the basis of the event focused primarily on foreign influence in the U.S., the panelists involved made it clear that the issue of deception has been around for many years.

“It seems very hypocritical that we go crazy over the slightest hint that people in other countries might have interest in our elections and may try influencing them,” Hibbing said. “We have done it too.”

While the spread of social media has made cybersecurity vulnerable in some aspects, it is not the principle factor behind national security issues in media and politics.

“The concern to me is the polarization of it,” Hibbing said. “Modern technology exasperates this problem, but I don’t think it creates it.”

Students who attended found the panel discussion to be eye-opening in the matter of viewing national security issues in an extensive form.

“It was a really unique experience with the wide variety of disciplines on the panel,” said Amy Price, junior mechanical engineering major. “Hearing their different points of view helped me think about these problems in different ways.”

In regard to law, espionage does not violate international law and the U.S. cannot do much about foreign influence on media due to its accessible and maneuverable factors.

“America has this misconception that the Department of Defense is there to defend cyberattacks,” Beard said. “The reality is that Homeland Security defines what is critical infrastructure in America, in which nothing related to election qualifies.”

The panelists advised Americans to break down the objective of media to see if it is recruiting or destroying credibility and to deconstruct the message to understand whom it is targeted toward.

“We should have students read as broadly as possible to gain different points of view,” Bender said. “The more broadly they’re educated, the more easily they’ll be able to analyze things more effectively.”


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