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Dr. Alana Maurushat, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law at University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, and Co-Director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Community, UNSW, is a graduate of the Law and Technology LLM program at University of Ottawa.
While at uOttawa, she was a research assistant for Professors Daniel Gervais and Ian Kerr, a Researcher for the Copyright Board of Canada, and a teaching assistant for Property Law.
Could you tell us about your current job? What types of projects do you work on? What’s a typical day like?
I divide my time between three different types of work. First, I research and lecture in the fields of Cybersecurity & Cybercrime, as well as more generally in the field of Information Technology Law. At the moment, I am most passionate about ethical hacking – the intersection between legal and ethical freedom of expression for online protests – and security vulnerability markets. Second, I am involved with a five-year intense cooperative research centre involving over 150 researchers developing new big data analytical tools to assist with law enforcement and intelligence for national security purposes. I am part of the law and policy branch, and will be working with government agencies in Australia and overseas, and computer software engineers and data analysts both in the private and public sectors. Third, I sit on the Board of Directors of a new start-up company, Internet Fraud Watchdog Global, a privately-held company that investigates online fraud scams, security manipulation and the trade of online counterfeit goods. It is an amazing feeling to see clients get back their life savings lost to these online scams. One case had us handing over boxes of documents (yes, boxes of paper not data) to the CIA. The international fraudster was arrested and charged on multiple counts of fraud and money-laundering.
What do you really like about your position?
I have always loved learning, and in my position, I learn each and every day as a necessity to staying at the forefront of a rapidly changing field. In the past I have grown “bored” after three or four years at whatever I was doing or studying, and would change positions, locations, and even professions. I’ve been in the cybersecurity and information technology field for nearly 14 years and it continues to hold my attention and my passion. I love imparting my knowledge to others, as well as learning from students. I also love solving problems. I’ve been recently working on a specific algorithm where we are embedding values (legal and ethical) into the coding. Sometimes it can take months to figure out the last remaining glitch. And of course, with my position I am able to travel to different parts of the global as much or as little as I like – this is one of the best things about my work.
What are the challenges?
Time management is the greatest challenge for my work and private life, but so far I have mostly been successful at maintaining a proper balance. While this is a problem that many people face, trying to stay on top of technological innovation and legal change across multiple jurisdictions makes the task even more challenging.
Why did you choose uOttawa for your LLM?
At the time, uOttawa was one of seven institutions globally that had a law and technology program. In making my decision, I met with Professors Kerr and Geist. I had a great chat with Professor Kerr in his office full of philosophy books and robots and Professor Geist invited me to dinner with Lawrence Lessig. That was pretty much “it” for me. I knew that UOttawa would be the perfect environment for me, and that I would immensely enjoy the program.
Do you have any memories you’d like to share from your time studying Law & Technology at UOttawa?
My experience with the program was life-changing; I ended up doing research work with Professors Kerr, Geist and Gervais during my time in Ottawa, who were great in their guidance. The project on Technological Protection Measures with Professor Kerr ended up being published, widely circulated and quoted in a High Court of Australia decision. Professors Geist and Gervais allowed me to travel in their place to some local and international conferences (Montreal, Tokyo and Geneva). I had opportunities with the program that I never had studying at other institutions. This has been meaningful from both professional and personal perspectives.
How did your studies in Law & Technology at UOttawa help you get to where you are now?
I was lucky to be finishing a Masters in an emerging field where there was international demand for information technology lawyers which enabled me to secure my first academic position as a Lecturer at the University of Hong Kong. The UOttawa team really went to bat for me by writing wonderful references, and by contacting the then Dean to sing my praises. Since then, the same team has since supported me in applying for PhD scholarships, bringing me back to Ottawa to teach one January term, as well as some minor research collaboration.
Do you have any advice for the current students at UOttawa and the Centre for Law, Technology and Society?
I was advised on my first day to chase down every footnote in every article assigned to us, and to keep chasing footnotes. At the time this sounded somewhat silly and almost pedantic but I followed this advice, and it has only been in the last few years that I have grown to understand it. I no longer have the time to follow up on footnotes, read at my leisure, or even to think as deeply about issues as I was able to then. I appreciate that I had the chance to spend a year doing this Masters. And skating to university on the canal was also pretty cool and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Interview: January 2015