New Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security Positions Pitt as Leader in Cyber Fields

David HicktonDavid J. Hickton, former United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, has been appointed founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security.

The new institute aims to build on Pitt’s existing strengths in the area of cybersecurity and will provide a platform for innovative solutions to meet cybercrime threats.

Hickton said he envisions the institute as a magnet for students, as well as a resource that will convene forums, panels and symposiums on important issues.

Recruiting is underway to staff the institute, he said.

The institute not only will harness existing assets of the University in a new way, but also will position the University more deeply as an important player in all things digital and cyber, he said.

The cross-disciplinary institute will draw heavily on faculty from the new School of Computing and Information, which opens in July. 

He sees opportunities as well in law, public and international affairs, computer science, engineering and the health sciences, among others — not only on the challenges surrounding cybersecurity, but on cyberenabling — including opportunities to speed access to data.

He anticipates partnerships with stakeholders within and outside the University.

“Western Pennsylvania has already shown it’s a very important piece of the discussion for dealing with the opportunities and challenges of the digital landscape,” he said.

As western Pennsylvania’s U.S. Attorney, Hickton played an integral role in creating legal practices for cybercrime investigations and prioritized the prosecution of computer crimes throughout his tenure.

Hickton’s office brought several high-profile indictments, including those of five members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for cybertheft from several Pittsburgh companies and the United Steelworkers of America. His office also indicted Russian hacker Evgeniy Bogachev, and dismantled the Darkode hacking forum through which cybercriminals bought, sold, traded and shared information.

His office also partnered with the FBI and other agencies to indict a Scottish man as the source of dozens of emailed bomb threats that disrupted the University in 2012. 

With the appointment of David Hickton, the University of Pittsburgh is poised to offer significant contributions to the national discussion on cyber-related issues affecting personal, national and global security and privacy.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher

In addition to his own experience in cyber law enforcement, Hickton noted that Chancellor Patrick Gallagher has a long history of involvement in cybersecurity issues.

In Gallagher’s previous role as director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, he oversaw development of a framework for protecting the nation’s cyberinfrastructure.

The chancellor last year also was appointed by President Barack Obama as a member of the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity. The panel in December released a set of recommendations for strengthening cybersecurity in the public and private sectors.

In a prepared release, Gallagher said: “With the appointment of David Hickton, the University of Pittsburgh is poised to offer significant contributions to the national discussion on cyber-related issues affecting personal, national and global security and privacy.”

Added Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson: “David Hickton will marshal Pitt’s extensive capabilities and assemble a group of leading thinkers in this emerging field who will enrich Pitt’s learning and research environment.

“We have an array of very talented and motivated faculty working in areas of cyber law, policy, security and technology, and we believe the institute and the record of accomplishment David brings will offer opportunity for a vital synergy.”

Hickton also has been named a fellow of Pitt’s Institute of Politics. In that role he plans to continue his work in combating opioid abuse.

He said he also hopes to collaborate in the area of police-community trust issues and in criminal justice reform — areas of focus during his service as the district’s top federal prosecutor.

Hickton earned his bachelor’s degree at Penn State and holds a JD from Pitt’s School of Law.

Appointed by Obama as the district’s U.S. Attorney in 2010, Hickton resigned the position last November.

Hickton previously was in private practice for more than 25 years in the areas of transportation, litigation, commercial and white-collar crime. He served the Honorable Gustave Diamond, senior district judge, as a law clerk within the United States District Court for Western Pennsylvania.

He is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County.

Hickton has been admitted before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and several of the U.S. circuit courts.