Betsy Cooper - Aspen Institute & Albright Stonebridge Group


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Betsy Cooper is a prime example of what a person can accomplish in cybersecurity without a purely technical background.

At one time, Cooper’s expertise was rooted in immigration and refugee policy. Over the past few years, Cooper’s work at the University of California, Berkeley has focused on solving the systemic problems in the industry.

A lot of people have taken notice of her work. Recently, Cooper has announced two new positions: policy director at the Aspen Institute’s Technology and Cybersecurity Program and a senior adviser at global business strategy firm Albright Stonebridge Group.

Cooper talked with us about how her work in the past has led her to this point, and where it will change things in the future.

CyberScoopLet’s talk about your next job. Albright does a little bit of everything.  What specifically you do you expect to be doing there? 

Betsy Cooper:  I’m going to be focusing on helping them expand their offering to tech clients, and that includes but is not limited to cybersecurity. So they’ve been really seeing more tech clients looking to accelerate their growth outside of the U.S. There’s also a huge interest in understanding some of these sort of core cybersecurity and technology issues. And I think in bridging the gap more broadly between Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. They’re interested in building a stronger presence out in the valley and I’m excited to be partnering with them to do that. I’m very lucky that I’m a Truman Scholar. Madeleine Albright is one of the key people in the Truman Scholars board. And so I first met her back in 2003 when I won the scholarship and so it’s a real honor to be able to go to a place that you know is honoring her legacy 15 years later.

CS: In terms of tech companies trying to figure out expansion beyond the U.S.: I imagine that has a lot to do with policy and dealing with the way that, for instance, Europe or China or any of these regions are are approaching these tech companies. So are those the kind of policy problems that you will be looking at?

BC: That’s definitely part of it. So is navigating cultural environments, building relationships with strategic partners, and advising on broader market entry and growth strategies. You’re probably thinking of the big tech companies but increasingly even medium-sized tech companies are going to need to face these challenges. I think obvious example would be the effect of GDPR on just big companies, but on everyone.

CSIt seems like Europe is willing and able to aggressively regulate security and privacy. Do you see that trend continuing where Europe is leading the way and pushing American companies to have to move forward?

BC: I think in terms of privacy, that rings truer to me than it does in terms of security. I think Europe has struggled in the same way that Canada and the United States have. I don’t think that there’s a clear leader in terms of a specific country. Tying back to my Berkeley days, these are problems that are going to come forward as we deal with artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. I think you might be right that European policymakers have more of an attitude that favors regulation in this space, but I have not necessarily seen as regards security specifically the content back that up at this point.

CSIn terms of helping these companies and organizations mind the bridge between D.C. and Silicon Valley, what’s what’s top-of-mind for you right now?

BC: One of the key reasons I made the difficult decision to move on from Berkeley was my interest in focusing more closely on the relationship aspects between D.C. and Silicon Valley. My motivating theory is that the relationship unsurprisingly is broken. They don’t see the relevance of policy. Most regulation here doesn’t affect them too deeply, so D.C. is a problem to be managed.  On the other hand, D.C. doesn’t understand why Silicon Valley doesn’t seem to get it. They don’t communicate clearly what policy is or why it can have broader impacts. And so a lot of the response is very reactionary. So it’s a power struggle between these two centers and I think we see that really clearly in the cybersecurity space, where it’s taken a really long time to even get people with technological expertise and policy expertise to talk to each other. And there’s tons more work that could be done in that space. So going forward with Albright Stonebridge, one of the key components of any strategy is to figure out exactly how to bridge the communication gap, the cultural gap and the skills gap between D.C. and Silicon Valley.