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Protection of Data Privacy in Computer Systems

  • Benjamin G. Walker


The protection of data in computer-based systems is a serious and growing problem. It is one of the most challenging technical problems in the field of computer science today. The objective of this paper is to provide a technical overview of the problem and to suggest some steps that need to be taken to assure progress in the field toward cost-effective systems that provide adequate protection.

The Problem: Protecting the privacy of data in computer systems involves establishing safeguards against accidental disclosure as well as protection against a deliberate attack. During system failures and restart procedures errors in coding procedures often cause data to be stored in the wrong files or put sensitive data out on the printer along with diagnostic information intended for maintenance personnel. You have probably had the experience at some time of being wired into someone else's telephone conversation.



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1 Benzel, T. C. Vickers and Tavilla, D. A., “Trusted Software Verification: A Case Study”, Proceedings of the 1985 Symposium on Security and Privacy, IEEE Computer Society, Oakland, California (April 22–24, 1985); V. D. Gligor, “Analysis of the Hardware Verification of the Honeywell Scomp”, ibid.; D. E. Denning, “Commutative Filter for Reducing Inference Threats in Multilevel Database Systems”, ibid.

2 DoD Computer Security Center, Department of Defense Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria, CSC-STD–001–83, (August 15, 1983).

* Vice-President, General Manager Research and Development, System Development Corporation – A Burroughs Company, U.S.A.

Protection of Data Privacy in Computer Systems

  • Benjamin G. Walker


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