Eryk graduated from the University of Washington in 2020, earning an M.A. in International Studies from the Jackson School of International Studies with a focus on Taiwan and China, and an M.S. in Information Management from the School of Information with a focus on cybersecurity and disinformation. He was also a Program Assistant for the UW Taiwan Studies Program.
The future is cyber. Within this domain, Taiwan has the most to gain, as well as the most to lose. Suffering an average of 30 million cyber-attacks per month, originating mostly from China, Taiwan is one of the largest targets of advanced persistent threats (ATPs) in the world. Taiwan is also subject to a growing number of targeted disinformation campaigns aimed at destabilizing confidence in its democratic electoral process through online and social media. As a graduate student, my goal was to understand what Taiwan was doing to enhance its cybersecurity and information security posture, at an infrastructural level, in order to defend its democratic election integrity. To do this, my graduate thesis was segmented into two parts; PART I – Taiwan Election Cyber Security: How a De-Militarized Cyber Security Infrastructure is Safeguarding Democracy, and PART II – Taiwan Election Information Security: Challenges of Disinformation, Political Trust and Post-Truth in Safeguarding Democracy. The research I conducted was designed as an investigation into the mechanisms shaping this outcome. I looked at institutions such as education, legislature, judiciary, media, executive departments, and actions on government initiatives, policies, and technology investment. This was at times very challenging, since the literature on the topic was minimal. I relied heavily on open source government documents, Chinese language primary sources, academic publications, and conducted in-person interviews in Taiwan with government officials, academics, and local journalists. I had the incredible opportunity to be invited to the National Defense University in Taoyuan to speak with Professor Hon-min Yau. His work in critical security studies argued for a cybersecurity framework without being militarized, zero-sum, or confrontational. This was especially relevant to my research because Taiwan is steadily transitioning its engagement to offensive cyberwarfare, focusing on attacking a specified vector or actor. Therefore, a defensive cybersecurity framework will be required for its election infrastructure, designed to protect the integrity of its democratic institution.
As a program assistant for the Taiwan Studies Program during my time in graduate school I had many opportunities to learn and connect with academics and professionals on topics of Taiwan. This included helping to coordinate the 25th annual North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA) conference, the 62nd annual American Association for China Studies (AACS) conference, as well as organize many program-based events such as The Taiwan Relations Act at 40: Retrospect and Prospect and Critical Vote: A Taiwan Post-Election Roundtable. In addition to hearing our guest speakers lecture and Q&A, I was able to talk with them one-on-one for their insights on my own research. Most importantly, however, my experience with the Taiwan Studies Program opened me to the richness of studying Taiwan holistically, not just from a single viewpoint or topic area.
The experiences I gained from graduate school and the Taiwan Studies Program were essential to my career development. Currently, I am a Cyber Threat Intelligence Consultant at Accenture. Much of my work involves monitoring international threat actors, developing threat intelligence reports, and staying up to date on the latest in geopolitics and cybersecurity.
I want to thank my professors, colleagues, and peers at the University of Washington Taiwan Studies Program, the East Asia Center, and the Jackson School of International Studies Cybersecurity Initiative. Their support has been instrumental in my success.