13 February 2018

Molly Adler, Strauss Center Brumley Fellow and dual-degree Master's candidate in Global Policy Studies at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, is currently studying the historical context of cyberwarfare and what that means for the future policy responses to these attacks. Molly is being mentored in her Brumley program research by Dr. Paul Miller, Lecturer at the LBJ School and Associate Director of the Clements Center for National Security. She details her research for us here:

Strauss Center: Please tell us more about your Brumley research project: the gist of it, the problem it’s attempting to solve, etc.

Molly Adler: My question really was, are cyber-attacks acts of war and, if they are, what frameworks do we have in place to deal with them. My project really has two parts – first it looks at how proxy warfare (or indirect warfare) has been historically treated by the West, such as The United States and supranational organizations that the US is involved in (NATO and the UN). The second part looks at how cyberwarfare would fit in that framework.

SC: What challenges have you run into, and any surprising findings?

MA: This is a really big question – every time I dig a little deeper, it unravels more and more. Also, despite the idea of cyber-attacks being a real fear since the Reagan era, when the movie WarGames came out and Ronald Reagan called his top brass to look into cyber threats based on what he saw in that movie, our policy frameworks are largely outdated.

SC: How has Dr. Miller has helped you so far?

MA: Dr. Miller has been really helpful. We meet in person to discuss my progress and he is really good at changing how I am approaching the problem. Through him I was able to develop a nuanced research question. Also, he has really good ideas when I box myself into a corner, research-wise.

SC: What have you learned from the other Brumley Fellows?

MA: A lot of the fellows are looking at questions I had never considered! It is so exciting to listen to them speak passionately about their projects. We are also slowly becoming a cohort, we can work with each other on developing strategies for our research.

SC: Could you go into a bit of detail on your experiences in Russia as a Fulbright Scholar?

MA: Working and living in Russia really allowed me to immerse myself in a language and a culture. I taught university students, so we were able to have a “higher level” of cultural exchange. It was definitely challenging, but getting first-hand opinions from people whose cultural context is so different from my own was really eye-opening.

SC: Finally, any plans past this academic year for your Brumley project research, and in general, what’s in the future for you?

MA: Ah, the future, what a nebulous concept. I'm thinking of pivoting away from cyber warfare and using my knowledge of Russia and technology to create a podcast series about Russia in the Digital Age. It would start with the advent of the first real network forum during the collapse of the Soviet Union and continue all the way to Russia’s approach to emerging technologies.

SC: We will be the first subscribers! Thank you again Molly for speaking with us.

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