Friday, November 24, 2006

Four Challenges for Computer Security Research

I would add a 5th item:

5. Develop Reusable Security Architectures that cover common scenarios and include appropriate protection by design

Tools are sexy; secure design is hard.  That's why you see so many tools and vendors hawking tools but not as much work.  I hear from people all the time who talk about this tool or pen testing or scanning some server or how you need to hack your wireless network to be secure.  That is a bunch of crap in general because trying to audit your way to security is bottom-up grass-roots and can only get you so far.  It's an early maturity model to be spending so much time and energy on audits and pen tests instead of security design reviews and developing security architectures.  It's a lot easier and sexier to say you hacked a wireless network.  We need to get to where it is just as cool to say you developed a wireless network security architecture such that you don't care who is connected to the wireless network because your security is not so brittle as to lose sleep over it.  Where are those reusable models made open source?

As for item #3, I don't think that I believe that there can be "quantitative" security risk management.  The biggest problem is that there is not enough good data to base future risk upon (try this:  how do you quantify risk of brand damage due to event X?). 

Item #4 is very important and speaks to ensuring security systems are usable.

CRA (Computing Research Association) Grand Research Challenges

Four Grand Challenges in Trustworthy Computing:
1. Eliminate epidemic-style attacks (viruses, worms, email spam) within 10 years;
2. Develop tools and principles that allow construction of large-scale systems for important societal applications -- such as medical records systems -- that are highly trustworthy despite being attractive targets;
3. Develop quantitative information-systems risk management to be at least as good as quantitative financial risk management within the next decade;
4. Give end-users security controls they can understand and privacy they can control for the dynamic, pervasive computing environments of the future.

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