Churchill Fellow, Professor Ross Anderson FRS FREng has been named as the recipient of the 2015 BCS Lovelace Medal — the top award in computing in the UK.
Awarded by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. The Lovelace Medal is presented annually to individuals who, in the opinion of BCS, have made a significant contribution to the advancement of Information Systems.
Professor Anderson, who is Professor of Security Engineering at University of Cambridge and a Senior Research Fellow at Churchill College, has been awarded the medal in recognition of his many contributions to building security engineering into a discipline.
As computers and communications are embedded in phones, watches, cars, utility meters, medical equipment and even kitchen appliances, security engineering is becoming ever more important. Even crime is going online; physical crime is falling while online fraud and abuse are rising sharply. Debates over the tensions between security and privacy move steadily up the political agenda.
Professor Anderson’s work has cleared many paths in this thicket, and opened up new subjects ranging from hardware through usability to security economics. His book, ‘Security Engineering – A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems’, has become the standard text. On the practical front, he is one of the designers of Home-Plug AV, which carries broadband over power lines and is used as a wireless LAN extender; of prepayment electricity meter mechanisms, used to electrify millions of homes worldwide; and he pioneered the study of API security, which led to the redesign of most of the hardware security modules used to protect bank PINs (as well as the magic numbers used to recharge utility meters).
“Security engineering is about building systems to remain dependable in the face of malice, error or mischance. It focuses on the tools, processes and methods needed to design, implement and test complete systems, and to adapt existing systems as their environment evolves.”
In the world of finance, he has documented many ways in which payment systems can fail; by explaining complex technical frauds, he has enabled victims to get refunds. He also made important early contributions to peer-to-peer networks, to the tamper-resistance of smartcards and the robustness of copyright marking systems.
“Ross Anderson is probably the world’s most distinguished academic in the field of practical computer security. He is certainly the most original. He is the person I would go to for the most thoughtful and well-informed opinion on any cybersecurity issue.”
He has built up a security research team at Cambridge working on topics ranging from physics to psychology. His team has collected large quantities of data on cybercrime, helping to explain a variety of online scams. However, the core of its work is understanding how to build systems that remain secure despite growing complexity and millions of users who may not just be in competition with each other, but even in conflict: in short, how we can engineer security at global scale. Complex systems with many stakeholders often fail because the incentives are wrong, so a security engineer needs to understand game theory at least as well as cryptanalysis. So his most significant recent achievement has been establishing security economics as a thriving academic discipline. He has also been a frequent contributor to policy debates on security, privacy and human rights.
Professor Anderson says of being presented with the award:
“I am delighted to accept the Lovelace Medal from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. It is particularly pleasing that this award recognises that computing is becoming ever more multidisciplinary as the systems we build become ever more complex, as well as ever more critical to the economy and to society.”
Previous winners include worldwide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Linux creator Linus Torvalds, ARM designer Steve Furber, information retrieval pioneer Karen Spärck Jones, and Doug Engelbart who developed the computer mouse and the modern style of computer interface.
Professor Anderson will be the award holder for the rest of 2015 and will deliver his Lovelace lecture in early 2016.