Teaching Cybersecurity in an Age of ‘Fake Security’

I teach cybersecurity. It’s something I really believe in, but it’s hard work for all the wrong reasons. First day homework for students is watching Brazil, No Country for Old Men, Chinatown, The Empire Strikes Back, or any other film where evil triumphs and the bad guys win. This establishes the right mindset – like the medics at the Omaha beach landing in Saving Private Ryan. Not to be pessimistic, but cybersecurity is a lost cause, at least as things stand today. If we define computer security to be the combination of confidentiality, integrity, and availability for data, and as resilience, reliability and safety for systems, then we are failing terribly on all points.

As a “proof” after a fashion, my students use a combination of Blotto analysis from military game theory, and Lubarsky’s law (“there’s always one more bug”). It is a dispiriting exercise to see how logic stacks up against the defenders, according to which “the terrorists always win”. Fortunately, game theory frequently fails to explain a reality where we are not all psychopathically selfish Bayesian utility maximisers (unlike corporations which are programmed to be). Occasionally hope, compassion, gratitude, and neighbourly love win out.

Could things be worse than having mathematics against you? Actually yes. You could live in a duplicitous culture antithetical to security but favouring a profitable facsimile of

— source techrights.org | Andy Farnell | 11.29.21

Nullius in verba


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