Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Issues in Computer Security

It took the 2003 Slammer worm just 30 minutes to propagate internationally in the United States, Europe and elsewhere though the Internet. And cyber criminals can exploit online systems to obtain the tax records of people who are downloading music. Clearly, the public is "concerned about the digital infrastructure," said North Carolina State University computer science professor Annie Antón. "They don't feel it's secure."

Antón, who studies the behavior of software systems that are vulnerable to security risks if they fail or are misused, was keynote speaker on security Tuesday, March 3 during a two-day summit at the Durham Performance Art Center on "Grand Challenges" for the future posed by the National Academy of Engineering.

There are other concerns about online privacy, Antón said. Some people, for example, are not passing on sensitive parts of their medical histories to physicians for fear medical insurers will use the information against them.

On the other aide of the coin, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that protects the privacy of patient information costs companies $25,000 per violation, presenting companies with powerful incentives to comply, she noted.

Industries have shown shortcomings in both "awareness" and "regulation," she said.

All these factors are presenting challenges for the writers of software code, said Antón, who is an internationally recognized expert on private policy in software systems.

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