Cipher Issue 155, May 29, 2020, Editor's Letter

Dear Readers,

It seems like only yesterday the world was in turmoil and cities were burning, but that was 50 years ago, and I was just starting my adult life. Bad as things are now, what we have in abundance, in startling contrast to yesteryear, is communication. That has meant that some semblance of normal life can continue in some economic sectors and in some social interactions. We can "go virtual" and keep talking.

The recent Security and Privacy Symposium offers an important case study in what we gain and what we lose by replacing in-person interactions with online interactions in a research community. This issue of Cipher has several personal accounts of what it was like to be part of this seismic paradigm shift. I am most grateful to the people who shared their impressions.

We have been slogging through about 25 years of ineffectual attempts to use the Internet for large scale videoconferencing, and it began to seem an unreachable goal. The communication lines weren't fat enough, end users did not have computers that were fast enough, bandwith was too expensive, it was unreliable, the synchronization never worked, ... and somehow, without much fanfare, piece-by-piece, the infrastructure was created, ready for the emergency we never expected.

And so it happened that in about two months, the S&P Symposium plans were changed, speakers recorded their talks, an amazing company pulled together an online schedule with sequenced videos and smooth transitions to Q&A, and "virtual Oakland" took shape.

No one would say that it was the same as "being there", but with more papers than ever, over 1500 "attendees", and no financial problems, the Symposium achieved a surprising success in the midst of a disruptive time. No travel, no problem.

My personal note is that I enjoyed the virtual conference. In normal times, the week of the conference is an opportunity for me to see personal and professional friends in the San Francsico area, and I greatly missed that. On the other hand, late May is the time of year when I most enjoy my garden, and being able to watch it day by day without travel interruption was a pleasure that I've not had in 20 years.

Every professional meeting that I've been in via Zoom during the past few months has ended with a plea from some participants to keep the virtual participation option open even when in-person meetings are again possible. This is true of Security and Privacy -- it will be forever altered by the events of this spring.

Unfazed by having his professorial life upended by pandemic and riot, Sven Dietrich has contributed both impressions of the virtual conference and a review of an important new text in computer security by Paul van Oorschot.

Two TCSP sponsored events will also be virtual: the Computer Security Foundations Workshop in June and the Secure Development Conference in September. EuroS&P, originally scheduled for spring this year, has been rescheduled to early September in Italy.

With hopes for health, peace and understanding of all things in computer security,

      Hilarie Orman