2004 Lecture

Cyber-Security

The BCS/IEE Turing lecture in 2004 was presented by Professor Fred Piper on Cyber-Security.

People worry about cyber-security. Perceived weaknesses are cited as threatening society and inhibiting ecommerce.

Yet every advance intended to protect the 'good guys' from the 'bad guys' can work in reverse. This broad interest lecture examined the social and political implications of 'misuse' and considered some technical solutions.

Information technology dramatically affects the way business is conducted, the way we communicate and keep records, and how law enforcement and national security are handled.

Our almost total reliance on IT means we are beginning to experience the serious impact of massive disruptions, such as losing the ability to communicate or do business. We need security technologies to keep society working, as well as to protect against loss of privacy, alteration of critical information and unauthorised access to confidential information.

This lecture looked at some of the technical security mechanisms used for protecting our infrastructure by providing confidentiality for information; entity authentication over distributed computer networks and the detection of alteration to information.

It discussed some of the social and political problems that can result from their use and from the fact that the same technology can be used by law enforcers (to catch criminals) and law breakers (to avoid being caught), as well as by businesses (to protect their assets) and by individuals (to protect privacy and preserve confidential data).

Further, every advance intended to protect the 'good guys' from the 'bad guys' can work in reverse. Clearly, there is a need to find a balance in trying to meet the rights and expectations of the various sectors of society.

The resilience of our national infrastructure depends on these security technologies. However, these technologies themselves require a second infrastructure which establishes trust and facilitates their secure implementation.

Any defect in this second infrastructure could have profound consequences, as evidenced when trust is abused in political or accounting processes. This leads to a discussion of the Human Rights convention and relevant recent legislation.

Cryptography, a subject to which Turing was no stranger, is essential to many security solutions and there was reference to the work that he and his colleagues undertook at Bletchley Park.

Speaker Profile