Availability and Response Time Affect Security

While a person’s views on these issues are highly subjective and will differ by generation, role, responsibility, and function, we need to come up with methods to evaluate different environments. Clearly a few seconds of delays in aircraft navigation systems, emergency response services and medical systems can mean the difference between life and death. But how many of our daily activities really fall into these categories? Very few, I would wager. And yet we have become addicted to instant response, despite its personal costs.

Funnily enough, I wrote my doctoral dissertation and first book (Computer Effectiveness, Information Resources Press, 1979) on this very topic. I developed a model that examines the loss in work value resulting from delays in response time, or – in those days – turnaround time. Value loss will vary with the nature of the work being done. But, importantly, it will also vary over time. Thus, a few seconds’ delay in a computer game is unlikely to have dire consequences, but a comparable delay in an aircraft control system being used to land a plane in bad weather will. By formulating the curves that describe these relationships, I was able to evaluate the results of different decisions regarding prioritizing of work, capacities of systems, servicing rules, and so on.

I am not exactly advocating a wholesale use of these models. However I am suggesting that one thinks about the variation of the value of what you are doing and when you are doing it, and build systems that optimize the overall value of what is done, including ensuring an appropriate level of security.

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