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Trustworthy Computing

Published on Apr 02, 2024


While many technologies that make use of computing have proven themselves extremely reliable and trustworthy - computers helped transport people to the moon and back, they control critical aircraft systems for millions of flights every year, and they move trillions of dollars around the globe daily - they generally haven't reached the point where people are willing to entrust them with their lives, implicitly or explicitly.

Many people are reluctant to entrust today's computer systems with their personal information, such as financial and medical records, because they are increasingly concerned about the security and reliability of these systems, which they view as posing significant societal risk. If computing is to become truly ubiquitous - and fulfill the immense promise of technology - we will have to make the computing ecosystem sufficiently trustworthy that people don't worry about its fallibility or unreliability the way they do today.

Trust is a broad concept, and making something trustworthy requires a social infrastructure as well as solid engineering. All systems fail from time to time; the legal and commercial practices within which they're embedded can compensate for the fact that no technology will ever be perfect.Hence this is not only a struggle to make software trustworthy; since computers have to some extent already lost people's trust, we will have to overcome a legacy of machines that fail, software that fails, and systems that fail. We will have to persuade people that the systems, the software, the services, the people and the companies have all, collectively, achieved a new level of availability, dependability and confidentiality. We will have to overcome the distrust that people now feel for computers.

The Trustworthy computing initiative is a label for a whole range of advances that have to be made for people to be as comfortable using devices powered by computers and software as they are today using a device that is powered by electricity. It may take us ten to 15 years to get there, both as an industry and as a society. This is a "sea change" not only in the way we write and deliver software, but also in the way our society views computing generally.

There are immediate problems to be solved, and fundamental open research questions. There are actions that individuals and companies can and should take, but there are also problems that can only be solved collectively by consortia, research communities, nations and the world as a whole.

* Delivering trustworthy computing is essential not only to the health of the computer industry, but also to our economy and society at large.

* Trustworthy computing is a multi-dimensional set of issues. All of them accrue to three goals: safety, reliability and business integrity. Each demands attention.

* While important short-term work needs to be done, hard problems that require fundamental research and advances in engineering will remain.

Both hardware and software companies, as well as academic and government research institutions, need to step up to the challenge of tackling these problems.

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