Add to Calendar Europe/London DD/MM/YYYY 12/11/2012 18:0012/11/2012 21:00Technology Visionaries Lecture3 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DG

How does software change engineering?

Much has been written about software engineering, but a deeper question may be how software changes the rest of engineering. As computers and communications become embedded invisibly everywhere, from power grids to payment systems and transport networks, the world is changing subtly. We humans been organising large systems for millennia – think of the Roman army, the Chinese civil service or the irrigation systems of Mesopotamia – but in the past, control meant local interactions, coordinated indirectly via hierarchies or markets, but having effects that were mostly local and observable. Software changes the game, and in ways we still don't fully understand.

Software can act at a distance, and in arbitrarily complex ways; and global scale means that actors often do not enjoy (or suffer) the full economic consequences of what they do. So engineers have to start paying attention to incentives, and designing mechanisms to be "strategy-proof" – which means that participants who behave selfishly should not thereby wreck the system for everyone else. Dependability is no longer something we can engineer directly; it rather emerges from the self-interested actions of firms who may be competitors and people who may even be in conflict with each other. I will discuss a number of examples of failure and fragility, from payment systems through cybercrime to the resilience of the Internet itself. Our institutions don't always cope well; for example, policemen are rarely keen to chase cyber-crooks who commit petty crimes from overseas, even when their crimes are on such a scale as to undermine confidence and do measurable economic harm. The resulting governance failures will lead to ever growing demand for ever more (and more complex) public goods, which governments become ever less able to deliver. The limits of governance may dictate, in the end, what sort of systems will win out – or even what systems can be built at all.

Professor Ross Anderson FREng

Professor Ross Anderson is Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University Computer Laboratory. Security Engineering is about building systems to remain dependable in the face of malice, error or mischance. As a discipline, it focuses on the tools, processes and methods needed to design, implement and test complete systems, and to adapt existing systems as their environment evolves. The focus of his work in academia has been building security engineering into a discipline. Fifteen years ago, some tractable parts of it – cryptography, protocols and operating system security – had well-developed theory, but the experts mostly didn’t talk to each other. Other aspects, such as software security, were a practitioners’ art, while yet other aspects (such as hardware security) were a combination of snake-oil and black magic.

Over the last 15 years, Professor Anderson has started strong research threads in neglected areas, ranging from hardware security to the behavioural aspects of online deception. He has also contributed to the evolution of a number of interesting new applications from prepayment meters and medical records through power-line communications to mobile payments. In the past 10 years he has developed security economics as a framework for understanding the dependability of global-scale systems: very often systems fail not because of some technical mistake but because of misaligned incentives.

Professor Anderson is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. He chairs the Foundation for Information Policy Research, the UK’s premier information policy think-tank. He also teaches an undergraduate course in software engineering, a service course in economics and law for computer science undergraduates, and two graduate courses in security.


18:00 Registration

18:30 Welcome by lecture Chair Dr Martyn Thomas CBE FREng

18:40 Address by Professor Ross Anderson FRS FREng

19:15 Facilitated discussion with Sue Nelson

19:45 Drinks Reception

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