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Five Questions with Dr. Suleyman Ozeren

SPA professor brings cybersecurity expertise to new SPA initiative

In 2023, SPA launched a new graduate certificate program in cyber policy and management. The new offering coincided with the founding of the Shahal M. Khan Cyber and Economic Security Institute (Khan Institute), created with a $5 million gift from Khan and a partnership with Cyber Range Solutions (CRS), positioning AU as a leader in cybersecurity scholarship and practice.

The #SPACyber initiative depends on its strong base of faculty expertise, including Dr. Suleyman Ozeren. Ozeren, who studies political violence, terrorism, cybercrime, online radicalization, disinformation, conflict resolution, has worked with NATO, the State Department, Congress, the Centre of Excellence Defense Against Terrorism, and the UN Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). He also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Orion Policy Institute, an independent non-profit think tank based in Washington D.C. His recent publications include a co-edited book titled From Territorial Defeat to Global ISIS: Lessons Learned (2021), published by NATO, and pieces in Forbes, Business Insider, the National Interest, Jerusalem Post, Al Arabiya, Reuters, Voice of America, and Sky News Arabia.

Q: What aspects of your educational and professional background prepared you for these responsibilities?

A: My doctoral research involved looking into vulnerabilities and how to respond to them through different levels of cooperation, and my research since then has enabled me to learn more about the different dynamics of cyber policy. The evolving nature of cybersecurity and cyber policy challenges and efforts to address these challenges further deepened my interest in this field.

Q: What courses are you teaching and how can they enhance the skills of cyber professionals?

A: I teach courses that aim to integrate theoretical foundations with practical policy applications. In “Cybercriminology and Criminal Justice,” students explore and analyze the tactics and techniques of individuals and networks of cybercriminals and engage in critical thinking about the policies and practices of criminal justice agencies at local, national, and international levels.

“Cybercrime and Public Policy” is designed to provide a critical understanding of the policies and legal frameworks governing cybercrime. The course investigates challenges and gaps in current policy practices, considering the roles of government, public and private actors, and international organizations. These skills are crucial for cyber professionals, especially those in policymaking, and for practitioners in the public and private sectors.

Q: What related research projects are you currently working on?

A: My focus has been on understanding how both state and non-state actors leverage cyberspace to advance their agendas and achieve objectives, specifically the ways state actors exploit social media through misinformation and disinformation campaigns. With colleagues, I examined how X (formerly known as Twitter) has been utilized for political astroturfing across the Twitterscape, in which large interests employ troll armies to influence public opinion. Currently, my research explores the use of technology, including AI, by extremist organizations for various purposes, such as propaganda, recruitment, communication, and fundraising.

Q: Why did you enter the cyber field?

A: I am dedicated to creating a meaningful impact by integrating my terrorism, radicalization, and countering violent extremism (CVE) research into practice in the policy field. Delving into the capabilities that extremist groups exploit in cyberspace has directed my focus toward cybersecurity. As my interest evolved, I started looking into how both state and non-state actors, including criminal networks, engage in cybercrime directly, or benefit from cybercrime-as-a-service (CaaS).

Q: What do you see as the biggest emerging challenge in the world of cyber security policy?

A: Cybersecurity skill gaps and the rapid adaptability and adoption of new capabilities by malicious actors in cyberspace pose a significant challenge in cybersecurity. Additionally, the policy lag between the pace of technological advancements, including AI tools, and policymakers' responses could emerge as a serious risk. For instance, although AI brings transformative innovations to the public and private sectors, mismanagement could give rise to social, political, and economic risks, along with ethical and security concerns.

For more information on Dr. Ozeren’s work, the graduate certificate in cyber management and policy, the Khan Institute, or the SPA Cyber initiative, visit or email