Photo by Peter Julian
Dublin native Conor Quinn is helping the Woods College of Advancing Studies break new ground—and potentially aiding his own country’s efforts—in the increasingly vital field of cybersecurity, as Boston College’s inaugural Fulbright Ireland-USA TechImpact Cybersecurity Scholar.
Quinn is approaching the mid-point of his four-month Fulbright sojourn at Woods College, where he is working with the school’s Master of Science in Cybersecurity Policy and Governance program. An assistant manager at Deloitte Ireland specializing in cybersecurity and digital forensics, Quinn is studying new methods of implementing strategies to help bridge the communication gap between information technology security professionals and key business stakeholders.
When he returns to Ireland in December, he will share the fruits of his Fulbright experience, seeking to help improve the communication and leadership skills of cyber professionals and the effectiveness of cybersecurity functions for Irish organizations.
But Quinn’s stint at Woods College is no one-way street: He brought with him the expertise and skills honed through working in Ireland, which has become a key focal point for European and transatlantic cybersecurity interests.
“Conor is a true professional,” said Kevin Powers, founding director of the cybersecurity master's program. Because of his maturity, outgoing personality, and drive to learn, I’ve included him in everything we’re doing, and at the highest levels—whether assisting me in developing online courses, meetings with the U.S. Assistant Attorney General, researching complex legal and policy issues, representing our Cybersecurity program at FBI Boston, IBM Security, MIT, and at meetings with other senior executives from private industry and local, state and federal governments. Conor really set the bar high for the next Fulbright.”
Powers, who also holds appointments as assistant professor of the practice at Boston College's Law School and Carroll School of Management, credits BC Global Leadership Institute Robert Mauro and his staff for working with the Fulbright program. “We looked at this as an opportunity to not only solidify BC’s relationships in Ireland, but to also to be the ‘hub’ for collaboration between academia, industry, and government—and a chance for BC to take the lead in the cyber and national security space. We are excited that this is going to be an ongoing relationship.”
Quinn, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University College Dublin, said the Woods program addresses a critical need in cybersecurity—not just in Ireland but throughout the field.
“Cybersecurity is not just about having technical know-how, but also a management perspective: seeing cybersecurity from an organizational standpoint, where you have to set priorities, direct resources, and set policy,” he explained. “What I like about this program is how it is aimed specifically at professionals who want to fill that role in connecting tech and management.”
“Cybersecurity is not just about having technical know-how, but also a management perspective: seeing cybersecurity from an organizational standpoint, where you have to set priorities, direct resources, and set policy. What I like about this program is how it is aimed specifically at professionals who want to fill that role in connecting tech and management.”
As home to the European headquarters of Google and Facebook, and with companies such as IBM, McAfee, Symantec, and Microsoft having a significant presence, Ireland is a major base for international technology and security, Quinn said.
With uncertainty looming over Brexit and its impact, Ireland has emerged as a crucial link between Europe and the U.S. in global cybersecurity efforts, he added, pointing to the creation of Cyber Ireland, a national cluster of both private firms and governmental organizations formed to represent the needs of the country’s cybersecurity ecosystem.
“Ireland,” he said, “has to be at the center of cybersecurity at this point.”
Boston College has long been a well-known entity to Quinn, who notes that the BC-Ireland campus in Dublin is “five minutes from my office,” and when he heard about the Fulbright-TechImpact opportunity he was quick to apply. Whether observing classes, making site visits to the FBI or IBM, or aiding research projects for Cybersecurity program research fellow James Burrell, a former FBI deputy assistant director, he has been delighted to find BC is as good as advertised.
“I’ve been very impressed with the Woods College faculty, and the professional experience and insight they bring from the working world—whether the public or private sector—to their teaching,” he said. “Kevin [Powers] is one of the most well-connected people I’ve ever met, which helps enormously when you’re trying to network. He also respects my opinions and views on research, and gives me the opportunity to contribute to it.”
“We looked at this as an opportunity to not only solidify BC’s relationships in Ireland, but to also to be the ‘hub’ for collaboration between academia, industry, and government—and a chance for BC to take the lead in the cyber and national security space. We are excited that this is going to be an ongoing relationship.”
One project in which Quinn is taking part is a collaboration between the Woods program and MIT that seeks to better define how a company or organization can meet legal as well as technological standards of cybersecurity. “It’s possible for you to be compliant with regulations regarding data security yet not be actually secure—or vice-versa,” he explained.
“We’re looking at court decisions on the meaning of ‘reasonably secure’ and best practices that can be used to achieve that threshold. It’s a complicated matter for the U.S., because with 50 states you have 50 different environments of cybersecurity. And beyond that, there is the challenge of creating a unified approach on a global scale.”
Fulbright participants are expected to be involved with their host university’s community, so Quinn is working with the BC women’s field hockey team, assisting with training, video, and other off-the-field tasks. “I am a field hockey player back home,” he said, “so getting to volunteer and contribute with a high-ranking NCAA program has been great.”
Even after he returns home, Quinn will seek to keep firm his ties to the Cybersecurity Policy and Governance program, especially once its online component begins next year. “BC’s footprint in Ireland is substantial, and it makes staying connected that much easier. So even after my time as Cybersecurity Scholar is ended, my relationship with BC will not be.”
Sean Smith | University Communications | October 2019