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Never in human history has so much of what we say and do been mediated by technology. Information systems have assumed central roles in our lives and in how societies function. The digital world is thriving with rapidly expanding opportunities for innovation, and individuals, businesses, governments and nations continue to focus on the benefits to be had through increased automation and interconnectivity between people and devices.
Whether for the functions they serve or the knowledge they represent, data and information play key roles in our lives. We conceive of ourselves and the world in terms of information, and systems, which require the communication of data or information between machines and people to work and bring technological and organisational value. Our profound dependency on information means that aberrations in how information is used can provide great benefits but also have serious consequences.
The opportunities promised by the modern digital world, such as artificial intelligence, also introduce great potential for exploitation. The exposure of data or information meant to be secret can lead to people gaining unintended knowledge and power and the manipulation, denial, or removal of data or information can impede, impair, or change the functionality of systems and ultimately have serious implications for individual citizens, businesses and nations. There is much discussion in the media of information security, privacy ad transparency, but what do these terms actually mean and why are they important?
In this subject, students initially take a step back from the current debate on information security, privacy and transparency issues to examine the fundamental understanding and evolution of these concepts over time. We discuss the socio-technical aspects of such issues and their implications for societies, including the organisations and citizens that shape them. Considering the socio-technical relationships, we take a broad look at what information security, privacy and transparency mean for each entity.
For Bachelor of Science students this is a required subject in the Informatics major and an elective subject in the Science Informatics major and the concurrent Diploma in Informatics. This subject is available as a breadth subject for other Bachelor degrees and is an elective in the Working with Information breadth track.
We focus on privacy and cryptography in the context of digital communications and examine the individual citizen’s fundamental “right to privacy” and related ethical implications of the Internet and resulting consequences in society, e.g. the manipulation of election outcomes. We develop student awareness of potential threats to privacy and pre-emptive actions. Organisations also experience an intensifying threat landscape within and outside their control, through an increase in e.g. data breaches, theft of company secrets, and emerging cyber threat. An attack can have devastating consequences for organisations, and their customers, alike. Organisations therefore increasingly prioritise proactive security strategies to detect and respond to potential attacks moving away from prevention-only strategies. Students will gain an understanding of why security risk management is key and how to assess and respond to the risk of threat agents exploiting vulnerabilities in organisational systems, technical and non-technical, to gain access to confidential business and customer data.
Finally, we discuss governmental transparency. Counter-terrorism and national security have become priority for nation states and governments have been collecting internet communications from internet companies, thereby violating the privacy of their own citizens, to increase protection. Government surveillance programs constrain people’s right to privacy and freedom of expression and grassroot organisations are now demanding a transparent public debate about what a government should be allowed to know about its citizens. Students will address the ethical implications and potential regulatory changes associated with the conflict between legitimate security concerns of governments and the protection of individual privacy and the free press. This subject will make extensive use of current issues as reported by different media and experts to illustrate the relevance of understanding security and privacy issues today.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject the student is expected to:
- Identify a range of security and privacy issues and threats that drive the need for security
- Understand the three security principles Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (C, I, A) and how they relate to security threats and technologies
- Identify a range of security paradigms and models and understand how they can be deployed in a security strategy to protect information and preserve privacy
- Understand cryptographic technologies and how they can be deployed to protect information and preserve privacy
- An ability to synthesise information and communicate results effectively
- An ability to work effectively as a member of a project team
- In-depth critical and independent thinking and reflection skills
- An ability to solve problems and communicate solutions both orally and in writing
Last updated: 8 May 2021