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On The Security Of Things And Cyber Trust

By Stan Paul

The Internet is where technology, policy, law, banking and business meet, not to mention the innumerable interconnected electronics and gadgets that we rely on each day — the so-called “Internet of Things.”

Also at this intersection is John Villasenor, professor of engineering and public policy at UCLA. While keeping up with the growth and proliferation of technology, Villasenor is more concerned with the security, safeguards and trust that must accompany our interdependence on this progress — what Villasenor refers to as “the Security of Things.”

At the Luskin School, he brings this expertise to the classroom. He co-teaches, among other things, a course titled Science, Technology and Public Policy, a class for graduate and undergraduate students, with Prof. Albert Carnesale, UCLA Chancellor Emeritus, SALT Treaty negotiator, professor emeritus of public policy and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Villasenor, formerly with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (where he developed methods of imaging the Earth from space), also serves as an adviser for Luskin’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) students’ Applied Public Policy projects.

Villasenor also is a prolific writer, researcher and public commenter on technology issues such as digital privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and corporate cybersecurity, drones and autonomous cars. This year, Villasenor testified at a U.S. Senate hearing in Washington, D.C., on unmanned aircraft, examining the safety and privacy issues that are emerging as unmanned aircraft fill the skies over areas of peace and conflict. His wide interest and expertise is evidenced by the array of publications that have included his writing: Atlantic, Billboard, Chronicle of Higher Education, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, Scientific American, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, to name a few.

While the actual application of autonomous cars to the streets is heading toward reality — although a work in progress — some of the legal issues involved are long established, according to Villasenor. In a recent Forbes article, he addresses the headline question: “If a Cyberattack Causes a Car Crash, Who Is Liable?” While the concept, in actual practice, still appears futuristic, unintended consequences may easily be seen through the legal lens of product liability and negligence, which could bring accountability to hackers (often unlikely, according to Villasenor), manufacturers (more likely) and, under some circumstances, even end purchasers, he says.

Villasenor outlines the issues coming to the fore with autonomous vehicles in a Brookings Institution report titled “Products Liability and Driverless Cars: Issues and Guiding Principles for Legislation.”

And, writing in Forbes (July 2015) on the recent wireless hack of a Jeep Cherokee that disabled control over the vehicle, Villasenor comments, “In the rush to increase connectivity, manufacturers — not just vehicle manufacturers — are often giving insufficient attention to the additional security exposures created when complex systems become increasingly linked.” He adds, “More connections mean more pathways and back doors that could be exploited by a hacker — especially when a system’s own designers may not be aware that those pathways and back doors even exist.”

On the recent VW emissions scandal, Villasenor wrote in Forbes Magazine (Sept. 21), “More broadly, the Volkswagen emissions scandal provides an important reminder that cyber trust involves more than cyber security. What we want, at the end of the day, is confidence that the software that runs everything from cars to medical devices to the critical infrastructure can be trusted.”

John Villasenor is a professor of electrical engineering, public policy and management at UCLA. He also teaches at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the UCLA School of Law and is an APP (Applied Policy Project) adviser for the Department of Public Policy. He is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Cybersecurity and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Carnesale joins high-level commission exploring storage of nuclear waste Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus and professor of public policy and of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UCLA, has been selected to serve on a high-ranking commission to devise strategies on how to manage nuclear waste

By Joe Luk

Chancellor Emeritus Albert Carnesale has been selected to serve on a high-level national commission that will study and make recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to the serious problem of managing the nation’s nuclear waste.

Albert Carnesale commented on his appointment to a commission regarding long-term management strategies for nuclear waste in the United States

President Obama directed the U.S. Department of Energy to form the 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the country’s current and future stockpile of nuclear waste after the administration decided not to proceed with the Yucca Mountain (Nevada) nuclear waste repository.

“The decision to pursue the Yucca Mountain plan was made 20 years ago,” Carnesale said. “From a scientific and technological perspective, much has been learned since then about radioactive waste and how spent nuclear fuel can be treated. And much has also been learned about the Yucca Mountain site itself.” The residents of Nevada also vehemently opposed the plan for a number of reasons.

The question of what to do with the country’s nuclear waste has grown in urgency because of climate change and the nation’s search for a cleaner source of fuel.

Currently, spent nuclear fuel is being stored at more than 100 nuclear power plants throughout the United States. These plants provide about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.

“I don’t think there are many people who think that is a very good long-term solution to the waste problem,” Carnesale said.

“The commission is not being asked to identify an alternative site to replace Yucca Mountain,” Carnesale said. “There are many other avenues of inquiry to pursue. For example, are there new designs for nuclear rectors that might mitigate the problem? Should the spent fuel be processed differently? How might the spent fuel or processed waste be stored to minimize the risk to current and future generations?”

“The solution won’t be found in science and technology alone,” Carnesale said.

“If you look at the commission, these are not simply experts on nuclear power or nuclear waste,” he said. “They are primarily strategic thinkers, people who understand issues that have substantial technological dimensions, but cross many high-priority areas for the country, everything from climate change to reducing American dependence on foreign sources of fuel. It’s clear that the commission has been asked to take a strategic look at this problem.”

The commission is co-chaired by former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft. Hamilton is a member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, and he previously served as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States). Scowcroft, a retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force, served as National Security Advisor to both Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

Carnesale, who has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, holds professorial appointments in UCLA’s School of Public Affairs and Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. Earlier in his career, he represented the United States in high-level negotiations on defense and energy issues, including the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, SALT I. He has been increasingly called upon by the government for his expertise on public policy issues that have scientific and technological dimensions.

Since leaving Murphy Hall as chancellor, he has led committees formed by the National Academies, the nation’s science advisors, to analyze, make recommendations and brief policymakers and Congress on vital issues. In 2008, he chaired a committee that looked at whether the nation needs a non-nuclear weapon with the ability to strike a target anywhere in the world within one hour after the president gives the order.

Recently, he has been holding classified briefings with representatives from the departments of Energy, Defense and Homeland Security as well as others on Capitol Hill on the findings of a committee he chairs on nuclear forensics.

Carnesale is also chair of the Committee on America’s Climate Choices, a nationwide project launched by the National Academies at Congress’ request for policy-relevant advice, based on scientific evidence, to help guide the nation’s response to climate change. That project, which involves some of the country’s leading researchers on climate change, is scheduled to release its report in September.

Experts outline scope of nationwide project on climate change Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus and professor of public policy at UCLA, chaired the Committee on America's Climate Choices to guide the nation's response to climate change

The country’s leading researchers on climate change came to Westwood recently to give the public a chance to learn and ask questions about the current science on climate change, options facing the United States and the work of the Committee on America’s Climate Choices, the group that sponsored the event Jan. 13 at the W Hotel.

The committee, which is chaired by Chancellor Emeritus and Professor of Public Policy Albert Carnesale, is leading a nationwide project launched by the National Academies and requested by Congress to provide policy-relevant advice, based on scientific evidence, to help guide the nation’s response to climate change. America’s Climate Choices involves four panels of experts in addition to the main committee, representing government, the private section and research institutions. They are evaluating strategies available to limit the magnitude of future climate change, to adapt to its impacts and advance climate change science, among other goals. The open session in Westwood was one of a series of town hall discussions held in Irvine; Boulder, CO; Washington, D.C.; and other cities.  A final report will be released sometime this summer.

Read the story at UCLA Today.