Tribute to Harold Highland

by Gene Spafford

We sometimes take for granted that the people we communicate with electronically will answer when we send mail. Sometimes they are busy and don't respond right away, and other times the mail fails and we need to resend. However, we often don't give it a second thought when we send off the message.

Thus, after I sent mail to friend Harold Highland, I received with shock and considerable sadness an auto-reply indicating that he had died in mid-September. Apparently, Harold passed away suddenly, but peacefully, in his sleep during a family trip.

Harold was known to many of us as someone with a tremendous and eclectic range of interests, a love of learning and education, and a critical insight into many issues -- especially in information security. My own personal image of Harold was strongly shaped by his continuing encouragement as I started out in the field of infosec research. There are many other people in information security today who also owe Harold a "thank you" for encouraging their work, providing advice, introducing them to others in the field, and publishing some of their initial papers.

It's almost impossible to summarize Harold Joseph Highland's career in a few short sentences. He worked in government, commerce, and academia. In a 60-year career, he pursued interests in (to name a few), publishing, medicine, sociology, management, philosophy, materials development, broadcasting, education, and of course, computer science and information security. Harold wrote 26 books, and over 150 technical papers on his interests. He served in many ACM and IFIP positions, was active in computer anti-virus efforts, and served on several editorial boards. In a relatively recent biography, Harold also listed membership in the New York Academy of Science [NYAS], the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineer's Computer Society [IEEE/CS], the Information Systems Security Association [ISSA], the international Computer Anti-Virus Research Organization [CARO], the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility [CPSR], and the Society for Basic Irreproducible Research -- the last of which attests to how serious he was about good humor.

Harold's had a long-standing interest in matters international. This included extensive lecturing, serving as a Fulbright professor in Finland, and occupying various consulting and advising roles in computing organizations around the world. His involvement in IFIP was especially noteworthy. Besides activity in several IFIP committees (including chairmanship of the infosec education working group 11.8), Harold conceived and created the journal "Computers & Security" in 1981. C&S became the official journal of IFIP TC 11 in 1983; Harold served as its editor-in-chief until a few years ago, when he became the editor-in-chief emeritus. In 1993, he was named as the first recipient of the prestigous IFIP Kristian Beckman Award, presented by IFIP TC 11 in recognition of outstanding contributions to information security.

As an educator, Professor Highland served as both a professor and as a dean. At various times, he held positions teaching business, medicine, operations research, and computer science. He was awarded the SUNY State Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1976. Two years later, he was promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor. In 1981, he "retired" to his many other interests.

Harold earned many other honors during his lifetime. He was especially proud to be named, in 1985, as a Fellow of the Irish Computer Society (the FICS after his name in print). He was also named as a Fellow of the ACM a few years ago.

According to Jon David, a close friend and associate of Harold, there will be some memorial posters at the NISSC next week, and probably a memorial issue of the journal Harold founded and edited for so long, "Computers & Security." Other tributes may be planned as well, including (perhaps) the establishment of a scholarship fund in Harold's name. Someone will follow-up with details once details are known.

--Gene Spafford