On the imbalance of the security problem space and its expected consequences

TitleOn the imbalance of the security problem space and its expected consequences
Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsBeznosov, K., and O. Beznosova

Purpose – This paper aims to report on the results of an analysis of the computer security problem space, to suggest the areas with highest potential for making progress in the attacker-defender game, and to propose questions for future research. Design/methodology/approach – The decomposition of the attacker-defender game into technological, human, and social factors enables one to analyze the concentration of public research efforts by defenders. First, representative activities are selected, then each activity is mapped into the technological, human and social (THS) basis. Afterwards, citation databases are used to estimate the relative volume of publications on each selected activity in the science and engineering communities. Finally, drawing on a number of relevant theories in organizational theory, sociology, and political science, avenues for exploring the social dimension by the defenders are discussed. Findings – The analysis suggests that over 94 percent of the public research in computer security has been concentrated on technological advances. Yet attackers seem to employ more and more human and social factors in their attacks. The social organization of the attackers allows them to achieve the results not possible otherwise, shifting the balance in their favour. It is suggested that the scope of research should be broadened, to involve organizational behavior and structure as well as social capital aspects that are currently not high on computer security research agenda. Research limitations/implications – The queries limit the search to public content written in the English language only. Since the authors are concerned with the relative (rather than absolute) volume of each activity, it is an open question whether this limitation biases the results. Practical implications – As the arms race in computer security progresses, social factors may become or already are increasingly important. The side that capitalizes on them sooner may gain the competitive advantage. Originality/value – A simple method for gauging the focus of research efforts in the computer security community and for considering computer security problem space through the lens of social sciences is developed.


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