Understanding computer security

Sandro Etalle, N. Zannone

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    Few things in society and everyday life have changed in the last 10 years as much as the concept of security. From bank robberies to wars, what used to imply a great deal of violence is now silently happening on the Internet. Perhaps more strikingly, the very idea of privacy – a concept closely related to that of individual freedom – is undergoing such a profound revolution that people are suddenly unable to make rational and informed decisions: we protested for the introduction of RFID tags (Kelly and Erickson, 2005; Lee and Kim, 2006) and now we throw away en-masse most of our private information by subscribing to services (social media, free apps, cloud services), which have their reason of existence in the commerce of intimate personal data. The ICT revolution has changed the game, and the security paradigms that were suitable for people and systems just up to 10 years ago are now obsolete. It looks like we do not know what to replace them with. As of today, we keep patching systems but we do not understand how to make them reasonably secure (Rice, 2007); perhaps more importantly, we do not understand what reasonable privacy guarantees are for human beings, let alone how to enforce them. We do not understand how to combine accountability and freedom in this new world, in which firewalls and digital perimeters cannot guarantee security and privacy any longer. We believe that the root of the challenge that we face is understanding security and how information technology can enable and support such an understanding. And just like security is a broad, multidisciplinary topic covering technical as well as non-technical issues, the challenge of understanding security is a multifaceted one, spanning across a myriad of noteworthy topics. Here, we mention just three that we consider particularly important.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages2
    JournalFrontiers in ICT
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2014


    • EWI-25268
    • economics of security
    • Accountability
    • Monitoring
    • Privacy
    • Computer Security

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