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Dec. 13, 2023

UCalgary legal researchers receive grant to expand offerings in cybersecurity

Funding from National Cybersecurity Consortium one of the largest in Faculty of Law School's history

When we think about cybersecurity, we typically think about computers, code, data and keeping our credit card numbers secure when we add the hottest new item to our digital shopping carts. But beyond the technical core of cybersecurity exists complex policy and regulatory aspects that are equally, if not more, critical than how the systems work. 

For that reason, the University of Calgary's Faculty of Law has received more than $900,000 in funding from the National Cybersecurity Consortium (NCC) to develop programming to train future lawyers, legal academics and policy experts and to advise on law and policy issues about and shaped by cybersecurity concerns.  

The law school’s research team consists of faculty members with varying backgrounds and interests, including international law (Dr. Elizabeth Whitsitt, BSc'99, LLB'04, PhD'17); financial crime and financial regulation (Dr. Sanaa Ahmed, PhD); artificial intelligence (Dr. Gideon Christian, PhD); legal issues relating to intellectual property, information security and artificial intelligence (Dr. Greg Hagen, PhD); national security and anti-terrorism law (Dr. Michael Nesbitt, SJD); and cybersecurity, platform regulation and human rights (Dr. Emily Laidlaw, PhD).  

“The opportunities and threats posed by new technologies are crucial for lawyers to understand,” says Laidlaw. “Almost every legal issue has a technological dimension these days, and the laws are changing quickly to keep up. This funding provides an incredible opportunity to train law students in innovative ways on cyber and security.

"With our broad faculty expertise across technology regulation, international law, national security and criminal law, this provides a platform to bring students to the action, or it to us.”

Project will provide a different way of thinking about the technology

The NCC’s mission is to grow a pan-Canadian network that works with private and public sectors to lead world-class cybersecurity innovation and talent development and to increase cybersecurity-related economic activity in Canada. UCalgary Law’s project, Mobilizing Cybersecurity Regulation in Canada, will offer a different way of thinking about the technology, who uses it, and who or what is protecting the technology and the people using it.

Dr. Lyndsay Campbell, PhD, the law school’s associate dean of research and project co-ordinator, says the funding will allow the faculty to expand its impact on legal education in cybersecurity policy and regulation. It is also one of the most significant grants the law school has received.  

“The graduates of our JD (Juris Doctor) and graduate programs will be better prepared to assist individuals and advise governments, businesses and other entities on their responsibilities as they address the balance between fundamental rights and the efficiencies offered by the innovation economy,” she says. 

“These challenges arise not only on the domestic front, but also in global contexts, such as international sanctions, international trade and investment, data protection, competition, and online safety.”

Highlighting global expertise

The opportunity will allow the faculty to highlight its expertise on a global scale, as well, bringing in some of the brightest minds to Calgary for learning and collaboration opportunities, which, according to Ahmed, “will provide students with opportunities to network with some of the most influential thinkers in the space.”  

For Nesbitt, the grant recognizes the immense expertise among faculty members.   

“The law school has a strong faculty cohort tackling cybersecurity issues from diverse perspectives and methodologies," Nesbitt says. "We are tremendously honoured and excited to be recognized for this expertise and potential through this substantial grant.” 

“Most importantly, the grant will be transformational to our efforts to enhance and grow our offerings and opportunities for students, who will then lead in the field in Alberta and across Canada.”