Spring 2014

Fred Cate

Fred Cate

We’re leading the fight for online security.

In the era of Edward Snowden, NSA wiretapping, and massive security breaches at Target, the need for cybersecurity has never been greater—and IU is a frontline defender.


It’s not often you hear IU professors quote Spider-man, but Fred Cate likes the line, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

He uses it to explain why IU launched the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research (CACR) in 2003. “We have a public obligation to use our great technology and know-how to help others,” says Cate, who is the center’s director, a Distinguished Professor, and the C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law.

One of CACR’s ways of “helping others” is empowering them to change their online behavior. For example, the center worked with members of Congress to encourage military families, favorite targets of identity thieves, to become more secure. “Think about it—if you are stationed in Afghanistan, you probably aren’t monitoring your financial accounts regularly,” Cate notes.

Staff members from CACR also meet with businesses, Rotary clubs, and senior groups to encourage them to secure their personal information. And the center produces videos called Security Matters, which answer common, how-to questions related to online security. One example: how to password-protect mobile devices. “One million laptops are left at airports each year,” Cate observes. “It would be good if they were password-protected.”

3 Tips for Protecting Your Online Data
  1. Change your passwords. Don’t wait for a security breach. Each year, change your most important passwords. It can be your new New Year’s tradition.
  2. Secure your mobile devices. They’re connected to everything you do. A password for your tablet or phone secures your whole life.
  3. Check in frequently. Your financial accounts are great bedtime reading. Check to make sure that everything looks normal. Did you really buy 100 gift cards last Tuesday?

International Reach

Cate has also taken CACR’s research to national and international forums—such as U.S. presidential committees on intelligence and communications technologies. “At times, we are the voice of restraint, cautioning policy makers on overdoing it when they want to limit freedoms or privacy,” he says.

Safeguarding Privacy Internationally

The center also hosts unique conferences between U.S. defense officials and the information industry so that they share their practical experiences in cybersecurity with one another. And Cate shares his unique expertise by serving on the security and privacy advisory boards of Microsoft, Intel, and the Department of Homeland Security, among others.

Private Support Matters

But all these forms of outreach are expensive. Currently, the center’s video series does not have a continuous source of support. And Cate foresees other needs, as well.

In particular, the center needs to be able to provide fellowships to graduate students. “An undergraduate who decides to major in data security can get a job and do very well,” he says. “To continue advancing this field, we need one or two of them to stick around.”

They’ll be the leaders who continue the critical work the center has started. They’ll be the ones fulfilling IU’s great responsibility.


Consumers have an advocate in IU—but IU needs advocates of its own: Call Dean Regenovich, assistant dean for advancement at the Maurer School of Law, at 317‑439‑1040 to support IU’s work in cybersecurity today.

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