Here at Symantec, one of our beliefs is that keeping people safe online requires more than just a knowledge of technology. It requires a knowledge of how people - both good guys and bad guys - actually use technology. It also requires an understanding of how people view technology and safety. It requires the ability to communicate different types of ideas to a wide variety of people; from teenaged users to the CFO, from the college educator to the data entry operator. It's a huge job and I was just reflecting today on how very fortunate I am to be working within a group that not only sees the value of the multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches, but one that actively supports and encourages it.
I recently spent a week at the Santa Fe Institute, learning about scientific advances in everything from the communication patterns of male bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, (in an unplanned, chance encounter with one of the world's top experts in this and other types of systems) to the possibilities of technologies creating other technologies. My own presentations, regarding some initial research of hackers as presented by the film media, generated much more discussion than I expected and I am still answering email questions about it.
One of the other presentations, "Why We will Never Win the Computer Security War", was especially interesting. The general premise was that we (the good guys) will not win because we don't really want to win badly enough to absorb the necessary sacrifices by changing our behaviors and requirements. Some of my own research on privacy would tend to indicate that maybe the author has a point, but I'm not completely sure. I think we need more datapoints before we can begin drawing conclusions about "trends".
Over the next couple of weeks, I think I'll write in a bit more detail about what the non-computer science people at SFI had to say. After all, if real safety comes by understanding the intersection of technology with everyday, real-world life, understanding the "real life" application of technology has to be a good thing.