National Governors Association Visits USC to Discuss Cybersecurity Partnership

Over the summer, representatives from the National Governors Association (NGA) paid a visit to USC for a series of discussions on cyber security, innovation, and the role of technology in state governance. The NGA delegation was welcomed by CCLP Executive Director Geoffrey Cowan and CCLP’s Director of Washington Programs Adam Clayton Powell III.

During the three-day visit, the delegation met with Provost Michael Quick and with Deans, faculty and researchers representing the multi-school Internet of Things – Emergency Response (IoT) initiative.

The delegation was led by Scott Pattison, the NGA’s executive director, and included Timothy Blute, the organization’s point person for homeland security and public safety. Tiffany Shackelford, NGA’s Chief Strategic Officer, also participated by telephone from Washington, D.C.

The visit served to solidify and expand upon the partnership between USC and the NGA that was announced at the NGA annual winter meeting last winter.

The Marshall School of Business, Price School of Public Policy, Viterbi School of Engineering and USC Provost’s Office hosted parts of the visit. Together with the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, these are all partners in the USC Internet of Things cybersecurity initiative, which is identifying and prioritizing measures to create IoT emergency response capacity and its public policy environment.

During their visit, Pattison and Blute also had a working dinner with members of the CCLP Advisory Board including Co-Chairs Norman Pearlstine and Mickey Kantor.

The group also toured USC laboratories, including the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI), which develops technology for information processing, computing and communication, and the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), where researchers study artificial intelligence, graphics and virtual reality and their potential for training and education.

One major topic of discussion was voting security and election software integrity, which has been in the spotlight since reports of Russian hacking of voting systems surfaced during the last election cycle. To address this issue, Cowan and Powell convened a working lunch for Pattison and Blute with researchers from USC and from state and regional government.

USC professors Ann Crigler and Emilio Ferrara brought their experience with election reform and voting systems to the meeting. Two representatives from the California Secretary of State’s office — Susan Lapsley and Steve Reyes — also participated and discussed governors and states can improve defenses against hacking of elections.

“States are where it’s at right now,” Pattison said, adding that by law, it is the state governments that have primary responsibility for voting and election systems.

Blute also noted some journalists use improper language when writing about cyber security and elections, improperly using the words “ping,” “breach,” and “hack” interchangeably. Cowan suggested that the Annenberg School could help address this problem by running workshops to sensitize journalists and others on more precise use of terminology.

Future plans include working work with the NGA to arrange a visit to campus by a delegation of governors, enabling elected state leaders to explore opportunities to expand the USC-NGA collaboration on cyber security, election reform and emergency response initiatives.

Photo credit to Judy Kang. The photo in the top center shows Professor Gerard Power, from the USC Marshall School of Business, with Scott Pattison and Tim Blute of the NGA, as well as Adam Clayton Powell III and Geoffrey Cowan. The photo to the right shows Clarke Lethin of the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) providing a tour of the ICT facilities.