Professor Ross Anderson FREng FRS, a pioneer of security engineering, talked about how software has transformed the whole of engineering.

Professor Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University Computer Laboratory, gave the latest Royal Academy of Engineering Technology Visionaries lecture on November 12.

Drawing on examples of software failure and frailty, Professor Anderson explained how the practice of engineering has been changed by software and how pervasive computing and communications are changing how we control information.

Professor Anderson examined the challenges of regulation and enforcement and how authorities are struggling to cope. With much of the work fighting cyber-crime being led by large firms such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, support for individual victims is lacking.

Professor Anderson warned: “We are going to see governance gaps in one sector after another. We are building all kinds of systems at global scale, without thinking hard enough about who’s responsible for changing them when things go wrong or how the victims will get redress.”

The Financial Times recently predicted that the coming century will see increased demand for ever more complex public goods, which governments will become less able to deliver. This raises several important challenges for the engineering profession, which Professor Anderson addressed in this lecture:

- To what extent do the limits of governance restrict the kinds of systems that can be built?

- What might governments do to protect consumers and citizens in the face of the disempowerment we experience in a world of impersonal global services?

- And how should our education system evolve to equip the next generation of engineers – and citizens – to cope with a globalized world of pervasive software?

After his talk, Professor Anderson answered questions from science journalist and broadcaster Sue Nelson, as well as members of the audience.

Notes for editors

  1. For more information about the Technology Visionaries lecture visit the events section:
    Technology visionaries lecture series
  1. Professor Anderson is Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University Computer Laboratory and has 20 years’ experience of researching everything from cryptography through hardware security to the behavioral aspects of online deception. 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.

    Professor Anderson has developed security economics as a framework for understanding the dependability of global-scale systems and has contributed to the evolution of new applications from prepayment meters to HomePlug and from peer-to-peer systems to mobile payments. He also chairs the Foundation for Information Policy Research, the UK’s premier information policy think-tank.
  2. Sue Nelson is an award-winning science journalist and broadcaster, Editor of The Biologist and a producer/presenter of the Planet Earth podcast. She is a former BBC science and environment correspondents and continues to present science programmes for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service.
  3. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Sarah Griffiths at The Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0655