Professor Deibert is among a handful of scholars world-wide who are changing public policy globally. He is the rarest of social scientists – discovering something that has transformed the behaviour of individuals and governments. His desire to apply his research “on the ground” is illustrated by the Citizen Lab, which he created and installed at the Munk Centre for International Studies.
The Citizen Lab is considered a “hothouse” that combines the disciplines of political science, sociology, computer science, engineering and graphic design. The lab’s ongoing research network includes the Information Warfare Monitor and the OpenNet Initiative, ONI Asia, and benefits from collaborative partnerships with academic institutions and NGOs.
Professor Deibert’s work has been publicized in dozens of media outlets and perhaps the most notable was Tracking GhostNet: Investigating Cyber Espionage Network which received international attention. The investigation uncovered a network of more than 1,295 infected hosts in 103 countries. In one week in 2009, Google news recorded 2,500 main and spinoff stories about the report. This April, Deibert and his fellow authors of the 2009 report released another investigation, called Shadows in the Cloud,that unveiled a global network of “botnets” – computers controlled remotely and made to report to servers in China. Their report exposed one of the biggest online spy rings ever cracked.
While some people point to China as an aggressive cyberactor, Professor Deibert has pointed out that cyberspace has become a battleground for intense military competition. Many countries are developing offensive cyberwarfare capabilities, including targeted espionage.
While GhostNet and Psiphon, the software tool that circumvents internet censorship, are huge achievements, Professor Deibert’s lasting legacy may be the students he has inspired to become engaged global citizens.