ITI senior Luke Treiber is exploring the intersection of cybersecurity and geopolitics

What comes to mind when you think of the role of cybersecurity in our day-to-day lives? Is it the firewalls that safeguard our sensitive information? Multifactor authentication? The periodic changing of passwords? What if we pan out beyond the boundaries of the places where we work, bank, and shop and expand to the scale of governments and nations? This is the realm where digital frontiers meet geopolitical ones, and what most intrigues Information Technology Infrastructure (ITI) senior Luke Treiber. 

When Luke was exploring programs, he wanted to do something in computer science. And he wanted to combine that with a seemingly unrelated passion: political science. “I also have a pretty large interest in international politics so, when I saw the ITI program, it just made sense to me, mainly because it was all hands-on applied stuff, like working with databases and working in a command line,” he says of the ITI program, which prides itself on its practical, skills-based curriculum. 

Protecting digital borders

“I really enjoy the networking and network programming classes because they have interesting conjunctions with what I’m writing for my thesis,” said Luke, who is in the honors program, writing his senior thesis on global politics and internet governance. “So, kind of talking about how different countries have established different organizations that govern the internet and how those types of things have played out. I try to talk with all my professors about the political aspects of the topic we’re covering, and that’s another way I’ve merged the two topics. I get to talk about the hyper security stuff and the things that are related to computers, but talk about them in a political science way.”

Luke explained that some of the conversations going on in his networking classes are about how to safely transmit things over the internet. He says there’s a big push in the international relations field to talk about how nation states are connected through a kind of network. 

“There’s a collection of people in some countries that are using the internet to attack the United States, so there’s a push to ensure security across the internet in those countries, some of which don’t necessarily have the resources to enforce it. Take Ethiopia for example. There were a lot of bad actors doing things like attacking banking in the US. We can’t exactly go in and raid the houses where those operations are set up, right? So we have to do things electronically to enforce those rules and protect ourselves and we may also have to negotiate with a government that is potentially less equipped to handle these matters,” he says.

Luke Treiber stands in front of a U of M maroon and gold campus bus

Work-school synergies

During spring semester 2022, Luke worked full-time as an information security analyst at US Bank in a situation called a co-op, which allows students to gain credits in complementary roles while taking classes, made possible because much of the ITI coursework is either offered online or at night. He was doing things like monitoring phishing emails and analyzing alerts for malicious activity. The co-op led to a summer internship with US Bank this year, and both have delivered useful synergies, with his schoolwork and his job in incident response reinforcing each other. 

“The really big thing for me was learning how computers are networked and that made everything click for me,” says Luke, who is scheduled to graduate in December 2023. “I would spend the day learning at work and then I’d be solidifying that knowledge while I was at school. And what we were learning in class, I was actually doing that at a real place during the day. So that was really cool.”  

Advice for students interested in a career in IT

Luke says the IT and computer science fields are “brimming with endless possibilities.” He recommends that any student looking into the field let their passion lead them. 

“Following the same path as everyone else can make it challenging to set yourself apart. This challenge becomes even more pronounced when attempting to stand out in a sector that you don't particularly enjoy. I believe that the ITI program plays a pivotal role in helping students identify their niche. It accomplishes this by offering a diverse array of classes, ranging from networking and C programming to cybersecurity. These varied courses have bolstered my college journey, enabling me to navigate the vast realm of computers more effectively.”