"If you were attacked, you'd be sorry": Counterfactuals as security arguments

Title"If you were attacked, you'd be sorry": Counterfactuals as security arguments
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsHerley C., Pieters W.
Conference NameNew Security Paradigm Workshop (NSPW), Twente, Netherlands
PublisherACM
Conference LocationNew York
Abstract

Counterfactuals (or what-if scenarios) are often employed as security arguments, but the dos and don'ts of their use are poorly understood. They are useful to discuss vulnerability of systems under threats that haven't yet materialized, but they can also be used to justify investment in obscure controls. In this paper, we shed light on the role of counterfactuals in security, and present conditions under which counterfactuals are legitimate arguments, linked to the exclusion or inclusion of the threat environment in security metrics. We provide a new paradigm for security reasoning by deriving essential questions to ask in order to decide on the acceptability of specific counterfactuals as security arguments, which can serve as a basis for further study in this field. We conclude that counterfactuals are a necessary evil in security, which should be carefully controlled.

DOI10.1145/2841113.2841122