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Computer System Requirements to Address Security November 30, 2013

Posted by 7832johnsob in Security.

The article Why Cryptosystems Fail [1] discusses the failed application of cryptosystems in several commercial areas including banking ATMs. While the overall software gave the impression of security based on seemingly complex mechanisms, often times these systems could be cracked using prior knowledge, keen observation, and a little bit of logic. The author states “Indeed, there is a sense in which there are no ‘secure’ systems at all; there are merely computer systems whole goals include beating foreign armies, preventing fraud, or winning lawsuits. If these goals are not made explicit, they are unlikely to be achieved” [1]. With this quote, the author is suggesting that the failure of these systems was due to a lack of understanding of security threats to the system being built and the lack of clarity of overall security as a requirement.

In order to understand all security threats to a system, a FMEA mechanism can be used to identify and prioritize risks to a system. Not only will this analysis help engineers brainstorm the possible risks, but prioritizing them will show which risks are the most important in preventing. This would help when deciding which security requirements are critical for the system. After this analysis has been complete, system requirements can be created to explicitly address the potential security risks. Since security would be included in the acceptance criteria for development of the system, the development team will be able to give full focus to the requirement because security importance has been directly integrated into the development process. Integrating security into the requirements of a system is vital from a security standpoint because it provides a clear and direct system need which can then be properly addressed during development.

When writing security requirements for a computer system with many possible security risks, is it feasible to attempt to address all of them? What elements must the prioritization in the FMEA use to identify which risks are high and which are low?


[1] R. J. Anderson, “Why Cryptosystems Fail,” Communications of the ACM, 1994.


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