From Bombs to Bytes: Hewlett’s Cybersecurity Grantmaking Jumps Off

The Hewlett Foundation's security work has been in transition lately, as it winds down its nuclear security grantmaking to focus on the very different threats found in cyberspace. 

The Hewlett Foundation established its Nuclear Security Initiative in 2008. The Special Projects initiative began as a short term program and is set to wind down at the end of 2014. Meanwhile, its new Cybersecurity Initiative is starting to ramp up.

The foundation is shifting from bombs to bytes.

Related: Can Hewlett Really Break New Ground with its Cybersecurity Intiative? Looks Like It

Hewlett began looking into cybersecurity in 2013 under the leadership of Larry Kramer, who took the foundation's helm in 2012. It started with the issue of how policymakers and the public can engage in an open dialogue to address tradeoffs among the often conflicting challenges posed by cyber security such as privacy versus security. What the foundation discovered in its research was that there was no formal policy framework or civil society leadership to help move that open dialogue forward. Hewett set out to change that by building out the nonprofit cybersecurity field from pretty much the ground up.  

The overall goals of the Cybersecurity Initiative are to bring cohesion to the heavily disjointed field of cybersecurity, to develop civil society leaders in the field (which is now dominated by government and industry), and help policymakers and the public better understand the highly technical nature of cybersecurity. Hewlett is also looking to help individuals and institutions to develop comprehensive frameworks toward cybersecurity management, policies, and planning.

Hewlett rolled out its Cybersecurity Initiative in April, saying it would spend $4 million a year for the next five years. 

The foundation has already jumped into building a network of leaders in cybersecurity with a $380,000 grant to the Center for a New American Security. The grant will fund the center’s efforts to bring together national security experts working in this area and will also support their work in generating possible solutions to sticky cybersecurity issues such as data security and privacy.

Though the Cybersecurity Initiative is only set to run for five years, Hewlett is looking toward building long-term solutions to ongoing cybersecurity issues. The foundation knows that it’s taking a risk in this relatively untouched philanthropic field stating, “It’s an uncertain bet, but one surely worth exploring.”