- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

From Strategy Games to Cyber Security

    Author:
  • Josh Coe
| Summer 2017

When Ben Buchanan received his first computer for Christmas 17 years ago, much of the appeal was the computer games—especially strategy games.

“My first exposure to strategy was through these rich and deep games,” says Buchanan, “and I started thinking about strategy and design when I started making them.” Such was his fascination and creativity that the designers of his favorite, Command & Conquer, flew him out to California to advise them on how to improve gameplay.

Now 27, Buchanan is a postdoctoral fellow with the Belfer Center’s Cyber Security Project as well as an author. The Cybersecurity Dilemma: Hacking, Trust and Fear Between Nations, published in February, is based on his doctoral thesis for King’s College, London, where he received a Ph.D. in War Studies as a Marshall Scholar. “The goal in the Ph.D. was to bring together cyber security and international security in a way that both camps would learn something,” says Buchanan.

Cyber security, however, was not always a component of his research.

After studying government and Arabic at Georgetown University, Buchanan saw for himself a career in Middle Eastern counterterrorism, but he would soon come up against an obstacle: his knowledge of computers.

“In a strange way, a lot of the technical skills that I use now are skills I learned before I went to university.”

—  Ben Buchanan

“I kept getting hired for positions doing Middle East stuff,” recalls Buchanan, “and then they would find out I had technical skills.” As an intern for the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit, for instance, they had hired him for Middle East analysis. Then, on day one, the department discovered he was adept at computer technology and had him transferred to the department’s Lower Manhattan Security Initiative. There, he worked on the city’s Domain Awareness System, a project combining technology and policing.

“In a strange way, a lot of the technical skills that I use now are skills I learned before I went to university,” says Buchanan. “It just so happened that computer things really came to the fore in international relations and international security.” While Buchanan cautions that playing video games will not lead to postdoctoral fellowships, they can be a starting point for interest in technology and broad strategy.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Coe, Josh. From Strategy Games to Cyber Security,” Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (Summer 2017).

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