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March 2019

Dear ComputingEdge reader:

Beware of Cyberattacks: Cyberattacks can be devastating to the affected organizations and individuals. Phishing, ransomware, and other forms of cybercrime are growing, exposing the personal data of millions of people and costing the economy billions of dollars every year. This issue of ComputingEdge focuses on steps organizations can take to bolster their cybersecurity and address this looming threat.

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More About this Issue…Who Controls Whom?

Smart speakers and cyber insurance might seem like unrelated topics. It’s not like we need to insure our smart speakers, though that might not be a bad idea. “Alexa,” we’ll say, “get yourself some coverage.” But both topics deal with control and both are themes in this month’s ComputingEdge.

Let us start with the smart speaker article. “Evaluating Speech-Based Smart Devices Using New Usability Heuristics,” by Zhuxiaona Wei and James A. Landay, presents new research on how we should evaluate the devices we use to control our homes. Its themes are echoed in “Smart Homes, Inhabited,” which argues that we need to make smart home technology easier to engage with. “A long-standing challenge for people living in smart homes,” A.J. Brush and his coauthors note, “is how to configure and interact with the technology.”

Configuration will ultimately lead us to insurance, but first leads us through two articles on quantum computing, a field with great potential but also new complexity. Bruce Schneier’s “Cryptography after the Aliens Land” considers how a quantum computer, should we ever get control of it, may undermine our control of data. Beyond ComputingEdge, you can find many discussions on this topic in the Computer Society Digital Library. You may also want to take a look at Michele Mosca’s recent article on the subject: “Cybersecurity in an Era with Quantum Computers: Will We Be Ready?”

In “A Future with Quantum Machine Learning,” Erik P. DeBenedictis expands the discussion to include optimization. He suggests that machine learning, which often fits models with millions of parameters, may be a major beneficiary of quantum computing. Through no coincidence, good colleagues, a second article underscores this point: “Deep Medical Image Computing in Preventive and Precision Medicine” by Le Lu and Adam P. Harrison. Machine learning is able to capture some interpretive skills that are notoriously hard for humans to capture and equally hard to teach.

Two remaining articles consider the contribution of labor in technological development. Edward Amoroso’s “Recent Progress in Software Security” looks at the value of code review in software engineering. In “Human-Aided Bots,” Pavel Kucherbaev and his colleagues present a way of using crowdsourcing to improve chatbots, which reminds us that human-cyber systems are usually more powerful and flexible than people or machines working by themselves.

After all this, there is finally the topic of cyber insurance. You might wonder why this is important. The reason is simple: We use insurance to control risk, and insurers limit their exposure to risk by imposing standards. Those standards shape the work that you and I do, gentle colleagues. Most notably, it affects how we configure and use computing systems. Nir Kshetri explains in his article, “The Economics of Cyber-Insurance.”

—David Alan Grier for ComputingEdge

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