The Need for a Paradigm Shift in Safety and Cyber Security


Nancy Leveson, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems, MIT


November 7, 2016


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Abstract: While our systems are becoming more complex and computer-intensive, the way we design and analyze these systems has not changed in the past century. The old approaches that were developed for electromechanical systems no longer work very well although they are still the primary tools used. In this presentation, I will discuss why they are not working, what changes are needed, and a new approach based on a different intellectual foundation. This approach is a paradigm change from what people are doing now, but those who try it are finding that it works much better. Careful scientific and industrial evaluations and comparisons that support this conclusion will be described. Surprisingly, this new, more powerful approach appears to be less costly and require fewer resources. Come to the talk ready to question what you have been taught and believe to be true about safety and cyber security.

Biography: Nancy Leveson is Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. While she started in computer science and software engineering, she has migrated to the larger field of system engineering and subfields of particular importance such as system safety, system analysis, human factors, human-automation interaction, cyber-security, and organizational aspects of safety and security. Dr. Leveson works in and her techniques are applied in a wide variety of safety-critical industries including aerospace, transportation, chemical plants, nuclear power, medical devices, and many others. One particular common element throughout her work is an emphasis on applying systems theory to complex system properties. She has been a faculty member at MIT for the past 18 years, before that holding faculty positions at the University of Washington and the University of California. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Prof. Leveson is author of two books: Safeware: System Safety and Computers (1995) published by Addison-Wesley (and translated into Japanese and published in Japan) and Engineering a Safer World (2012) published by MIT Press (recently translated into Chinese and published in China) and many research papers. She consults extensively in most industries on the ways to prevent accidents and has served on numerous national and international committees and accident investigations including being an expert consultant for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, the Presidential Commission on Deepwater Horizon, and the Baker Panel on the Texas City accident.

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