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Are We In a Computer Security Renaissance?

I believe we're experiencing a time of great creativity in computer security, in part because many experts come from outside the security discipline. Many of today's security practitioners were trained in fields as diverse as biostatistics, divinity, economics, and cognitive science. This diversity brings interesting new perspectives to the security challenge and leads to creative interplay that results in forward progress. We've seen evidence of this in the emergence of economic theories of security, the rise of risk management and security engineering, and a shift toward process-driven approaches (vs. product sets) and software security.

Computer security used to be dominated by military and espionage-oriented research--think cryptography, code breaking, communications monitoring, and so on. But the widespread adoption of the Internet and e-commerce helped change the focus of security research. With money at stake, security quickly became as relevant to businesses as it was to national defense.

A number of young researchers joined the field in the mid-1990s, and this influx of "new blood" shook up the traditional security research community. For instance, the commercialization of the firewall, the rise of anti-virus technology, and the adoption of modern platforms such as Java and .NET were all spearheaded by new thinking in this area. As we continue to shift from guns, dogs, and concrete to networks, information systems, and computers, we must remember to take advantage of this creative diversity.

TODAY'S TRAINING

Only a handful of people working in computer security today started their careers in the field. In fact, academic programs expressly designed to train security practitioners are a recent phenomenon and remain rare.

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