Capstone in Canadian Security Policy (Winter 2018)

Course Description

This capstone course will introduce students to researching and writing on behalf of Canada’s federal and provincial public services in the area of national security policy. Over the 2018 Winter Semester, the class, grouped into smaller research clusters, will work with four preselected government “clients” or “partners”. Group One will work with Financial Transaction and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), on exploring how ransomware attacks challenge existing global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing regimes, strategies, and efforts.  Group Two will work with Global Affairs Canada (via its Digital Inclusion Lab) on the AI and Human Rights Initiative, assessing the challenges governments face and the opportunities they may have in governing the development and use of Artificial Intelligence. Group Three will join Ontario’s Office of the Provincial Security Advisor in mapping out the risks, costs, and consequences of three major disruption events targeting the Greater Toronto Area (i.e. cyber and terrorism attacks). And Group Four will work with the Bank of Canada on producing a 2030 strategic and security outlook for central banks that touches on everything from emerging disruptive technologies to political and economic instability.  

Prerequisite: MA standing in the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs or permission of the School.

You can read more about the research success of the capstone course here.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course, students will be able to: 

  1. Develop an informed perspective and understanding of Canadian national security policy research and writing.

  2. Consider how national security policy is framed, established, and communicated in Canada.

  3. Develop research and analytical capabilities on four diverse issues pertaining to contemporary Canadian security.

  4. Develop research, writing, and presentation skills in public policy analysis.

Course Structure & Class Format

This is an academic course at the graduate level. Students should expect to participate in informal and formal seminar-style discussions, lead group and individual presentations, and actively participate in professor-guided training exercises. A typical class will incorporate different learning strategies:

  • Weekly Update – Each class will begin (time permitting) with an informal discussion of national and international developments relating to the four research clusters that took place over the previous week. The Weekly Update will give students an opportunity to share news stories with the class. Expect to contribute regularly.

  • Lecture – Prof Wilner will begin some classes with a short introductory lecture that will provide a framework for understanding the issue/topic under discussion, and help lead subsequent training exercises.

  • Guest lectures – Representatives of all four clients will visit class at the beginning of the course, in weeks one and two. Representatives will provide us with the details of the project: What is the big picture? Where is the research question/puzzle coming from? Why is the topic important? How might the project be carried out? What resources might students collect and use? These presentations will be followed by a Q/A with the class. Come ready to ask questions. We will also be joined by a representative of Carleton library services who will assist us in identifying an collecting sources and material for each project.

  • Student Presentations – Research groups will present every few weeks on the progression of their projects. These presentations will give the groups an opportunity to share their findings, to date, and to receive constructive criticism from the class.

  • Studio Workshop – Given the intense collaboration needed to succeed in this class, students will be provided with time during several classes to meet and discuss issues as a group during class hours. Professor Wilner will provide directed assistance where needed during these workshops. Come prepared with questions and queries for Prof Wilner, and for your group members.

Research Puzzles

Four disparate research puzzles will be explored in this class.

  • Group One: FINTRAC

Research Question:

The growing prevalence of largescale and multijurisdictional ransomware attacks has led to 2017 being declared as the “year of ransomware”. These attacks leverage a type of malware that is covertly installed on a victim’s computer, encrypting the victim’s files and demanding payment for decryption. While ransomware predates the emergence of cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin has become the preferred payment method of ransomware attacks, challenging traditional techniques employed by law enforcement and national security agencies to investigate these crimes.

  • What is the impact of the emerging threat of ransomware attacks on the global anti-money laundering/anti-terrorism financing (AML/ATF) community?

  • Are global AML/ATF regimes well suited to address threats from laundering of “digital age” threats such as ransomware? Can the threat of ransomware be properly addressed using existing deterrence/prevention/detection tools? How did the advent of cryptocurrencies impact the global ransomware trend?

  • How can the public-private sector best work together to counter these threats? What are case studies showing best practices?

  • What recommendations would you provide to the AML/ATF regime to best respond to the threat of ransomware? Recommendations can be operational or legislative/regulatory amendments.

Group One’s project should include material relating to both Canadian (e.g. universities, hospitals) and international ransomware attacks (e.g. WannaCry, Petya).

Final cluster presentation will take place in April 2018 (date TBD) at FINTRAC.

  • Group Two: Global Affairs Canada

Research Question:

Rapid advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have important implications for Canadian foreign policy objectives related to promoting international human rights, inclusion, good governance, and democracy. While some of these implications raise concerns, others point to ways in which AI might be leveraged for public good. Fundamental human rights such as the right to privacy and due process are at the centre of issues that require more academic and policy attention in AI. Against this backdrop, Canada is positioning itself as a world leader in AI (e.g. Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy). Understanding the potential challenges and opportunities AI poses for Canadian foreign policy objectives will help position Canada as both an innovator and a responsible stakeholder. To support this goal, GAC’s Digital Inclusion Lab has established a series of interdisciplinary research partnerships with a range of academic units across Canada. Each unit is tasked with exploring a set of related questions relating AI to: inclusivity, equality, and ICT-enabled violence against women and girls; countering online hate; internet public policy and human rights; and governance and democracy. 

Group Two’s research questions relate to the last of these four goal:

  • What opportunities are there to influence private sector companies so that they reinforce transparency and accountability when it comes to developing and applying AI and other disruptive technology? In other words, how can AI be governed, including: ethical standards, normative expectations of AI applications, implementation scenarios, and assessments of responsibility and accountability for actions taken by or on behalf of an autonomous AI system?

The final cluster presentation will take place during GAC’s Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights Initiative Symposium, which will be held on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, in Ottawa (location, TBD).

  • Group Three: Ontario’s Office of the Provincial Security Advisor

Research Question:

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is Canada’s primary economic engine, contributing almost as much to Canada’s annual GDP as all of Quebec (Canada’s second-largest province). Toronto is also Canada’s largest city, home to roughly 20 percent of all Canadians, and the capital of Ontario. And Toronto is consistently listed as a top-ranked Global City. Securing it is an international, national, and provincial imperative.

Group Three’s project, Planning for the Impossible: Dark TO, will envision and scenario plan three major disruptive events targeting the GTA, including:

  • Financial district cyberattack (internet node failure)

  • University Ave/corridor attack (active shooter or car ramming event)

  • Union Station and surrounding rail and roads (bomb on train inside station)

What are the costs of each of these three scenarios (e.g. lost wages/productivity/asset destruction)? What short, medium, and long-term effect would these events have on different public and private sectors and actors within and beyond the GTA? What cascading or secondary effects might these events have? What mitigation strategies and risk reduction measures might provide an effective response?

The final cluster presentation will take place with representatives of the Office, in Ottawa or Toronto in April. Specific date and location TBD. 

  • Group Four: Bank of Canada (BoC)

Research Question:

The Bank of Canada project, 2030 Strategic Outlook: Potential Risks and Threats for Central Banking Security, is a forward-looking project that asks students to explore and anticipate a range of emerging and future threats to the BoC, and to Canada more broadly. As Canada’s central bank, the BoC’s primary role is to “promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada.” It is responsible for Canada’s monetary policy, financial stability, currency design and distribution, and fiscal management.

  • What is the future security outlook for central banks, in and outside, Canada?

  • What emerging technologies, developments, and challenges does the Bank of Canada face in the coming decade(s)?

The BoC research cluster should explore a number of related themes and topics, including, but not limited to:

  • Developments in populism and activism

  • Political & economic instability

  • The rise of extremist movements

  • Transitional crime & theft (e.g. SWIFT incidents)

  • Digital economy, privatization, decentralization, and transparency

  • Advances in robotics, automation, AI, and big data analytics

  • Digital identity and interconnectivity

The final cluster presentation will take place with BoC partners, in Ottawa, in April 2018 (details TBD).

Project Deliverables

Each research team will have a unique set of deliverables to produce over the semester.

Group One (FINTRAC)

  • Produce a major, 30 page, single-spaced, policy research paper that includes recommendations. [Works Cited not included in page count. Appendix can be added as needed; not included in page count.]

  • A 3-page, single-spaced, high-level summary report of the project.

  • Briefing deck of overall findings and results.

  • Final Presentation (30 minutes) with FINTRAC partners.

  • Several Minor Presentations (20-30 minutes each) during the semester.

Group Two (GAC)

  • Produce a major, 30 page, single-spaced, research paper. [Works Cited not included in page count. Appendix can be added as needed; not included in page count.]

  • A 2-page, single-spaced, high-level briefing note (template to be provided by GAC), that identifies the major findings of the research paper.

  • Briefing deck of overall findings and results.

  • Final Presentation (time TBD) to be given at GAC’s Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights Initiative Symposium (April 18, 2018).

  • Several Minor Presentations (20-30 minutes each) during the semester.

Group 3 (Office of the Provincial Security Advisor)

  • Produce a major, 30 to 35 page, single-spaced, research paper. [Works Cited, graphics, maps, etc., not included in page count. Appendix can be added as needed; not included in page count.]

  • A 5-page, single-spaced, summary of the report.

  • Briefing deck of overall findings and results.

  • Final Presentation (time and location TBD) to be given to representatives of the Office.

  • Several Minor Presentations (20-30 minutes each) during the semester.

Group 4 (BoC)

  • Produce a major written report (40+ pages) of the project that includes scanning material and insight development on various challenges/concerns, policy assessment and review, international comparison, etc.

  • A 3-page, double-spaced, summary of the report.

  • Briefing deck of overall findings and results.

  • Final Presentation (30 minutes) to be given to BoC representatives.

  • Several Minor Presentations (20-30 minutes each) during the semester.