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Mixing politics and cyber security

Friday 7 March 2014 10:18am

CiaranCullen 650Ciaran Cullen, Master of Politics

Raised to be politically aware, and deeply interested in technology, Ciaran Cullen’s choice to research cyber security threat for his Master of Politics is no surprise.

Ciaran has a long-held ambition to join the Royal New Zealand Air Force as an intelligence officer, or as an alternative, he says he could see himself working within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the areas of international relations and defence. But having graduated in May with an Otago degree in Politics and a minor in History, he felt the time was right to further his studies.

“I was going to do post graduate study at some point – it made sense to do it while my research skills are still fresh. Otago’s Politics department has a good reputation, too. It has begun a new 12 month, course work Masters with four papers and a dissertation. My dissertation is a way for me to find a niche – New Zealand and cyber security threat is that niche.

“Not many people in New Zealand write about cyber security in a political science sense. My research is broken into two key areas: how the public sector has or hasn’t responded to cyber security threats, and an examination of how the private sector has responded. The argument is that they haven’t as well as they could have and have tried to talk down the risk, maybe because they don’t have a good understanding of those risks.”

A family tradition

One of six children of politically active parents, Ciaran is carrying on the family tradition, assisting with a local Dunedin MP’s campaign in the last national election. He is also part of the US Embassy Youth Council (which gives New Zealand university students experience of diplomatic processes and international relations).

“Politics Head of Department Professor Robert Patman, nominated me for the US Embassy Youth Council. When I went to thank him for that we talked about what I was planning to research and he said, since cyber security was one his interest areas, he’d probably supervise, and he is.”

Ciaran enjoys the learning environment of this groundbreaking Masters course, with its interactive and intimate classes. He says this creates a very immersive, rewarding experience.

“The staff are very supportive, they seem to be hell-bent on making sure we’re getting through the work."

“The social element is one of the other most enjoyable parts of programme. We join social events with staff and go out as a class with our lecturers; they are all really nice, wonderful people.”

Find out more about the Master of Politics