Skip to Content
MIT News magazine

Herb Lin '73, ScD '79

National Research Council scientist scrutinizes cyber-attack policy
August 23, 2011

In 1969, Herb Lin became part of an educational program for freshmen called the Experimental Study Group (ESG)—an experience that profoundly affected him. “ESG was the formative experience of my time at MIT,” he says. The program encourages a more personalized learning experience through seminar-style classes and independent study. ESG faculty, addressed by their first names, are considered elder learners.

ESG helped Lin discover a love of physics and helped him shape his MIT experience. “What ESG taught me was that I had some power and control over my educational destiny,” he says. “I got to be very good friends with the Committee on Curricula.”

He successfully proposed alternative courses as general requirements and, as part of his PhD, worked on understanding the psychological and cognitive difficulties college freshmen face in learning physics. He later completed a postdoc in this subject at the University of Washington and has consulted on educational issues in K-12 math and science throughout his career.

Over time, Lin was increasingly drawn to nuclear-weapons strategy. He pursued another postdoc, at Cornell, to retrain himself in defense policy and arms control, then worked as a scientist for the House Armed Services Committee and later at the National Academies. Today, Lin is chief scientist at the National Research Council’s Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, where he directs studies on public policy and information technology.

“It’s a great place for a knowledge junkie,” he says. During his 20-plus years at the National Academies, Lin has conducted research on cryptography, health information technology, electronic voting, computational biology, online sexual exploitation of children, and high-tech workforce issues.

Lately, he’s made a name for himself discussing the offensive dimensions of cybersecurity. In 2009 he directed a groundbreaking academy study of cyber-attack as an instrument of U.S. policy. Lin believes there needs to be more public discussion of the rules that govern America’s use of such attacks, just as there are rules for police officers carrying weapons.

He lives in Washington, D.C., with his 16-year-old daughter, and in his spare time he indulges a passion ignited in college. “Folk dancing was the biggest social outlet I had at MIT,” he says. At the Institute, Lin led a student folk dance group. These days, he enjoys contra and swing dancing weekly. 

Keep Reading

Most Popular

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

2021 tech fails concept
2021 tech fails concept

The worst technology of 2021

Face filters, billionaires in space, and home-buying algorithms that overpay all made our annual list of technology gone wrong.

glacier near Brown Station
glacier near Brown Station

The radical intervention that might save the “doomsday” glacier

Researchers are exploring whether building massive berms or unfurling underwater curtains could hold back the warm waters degrading ice sheets.

Professor Gang Chen of MIT
Professor Gang Chen of MIT

In a further blow to the China Initiative, prosecutors move to dismiss a high-profile case

MIT professor Gang Chen was one of the most prominent scientists charged under the China Initiative, a Justice Department effort meant to counter economic espionage and national security threats.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.