The Grand Challenge of Securing Cyberspace

A National Academy of Engineering committee, including technologists such as Google’s Larry Page, have drawn up a list of Grand Challenges for Engineering . One of the fourteen challenges is that of securing cyberspace. Noting the dangers presented in the fictional scenario dramatized in the Bruce Willis movie “Live Free or Die Hard”, the committee correctly point out that research and development for security systems has not progressed much beyond a strategy akin to plugging the hole in the dike. Taking a leaf out the Jericho Forum’s book, they also rightly claim that “the perimeter defense doesn’t work”.

Let’s hope the government and research councils pay attention, and make a bigger effort to seek out and encourage imaginative solutions from new, innovative sources. My experience of the research community is that it fails to hit the spot because it’s far too conservative in both its approach and its criteria for funding. We continue to get too much of the same from the usual suspects. And it stops well short of delivering anything useful, such as a working product. In fact anything that remotely approaches a practical solution simply doesn’t qualify for research funding. If we are to meet the challenge, we need more support for practical groups such as the Jericho Forum, and we need more initiatives such as Peter Jaco’s excellent new OrbisIP venture, which seeks out useful security research and connects it with venture capital and customers.

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