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Communications of the ACM

Inside risks

Far-Sighted Thinking About Deleterious Computer-Related Events

Far-Sighted Thinking about Deleterious Computer-Related Events, illustration

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates / Shutterstock

Several previous communications Inside Risks columns (particularly October 2012 and February 2013) have pursued the needs for more long-term planning—particularly to augment or indeed counter some of the short-term optimization that ignores the importance of developing and operating meaningfully trustworthy systems that are accompanied by proactive preventive maintenance. This column revisits that theme and takes a view of some specific risks. It suggests that advanced planning for certain major disasters relating to security, cryptography, safety, reliability, and other critical system requirements is well worth consideration. The essential roles of preventive maintenance are also essential.

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Crises, Disasters, and Catastrophes

There is a wide range of negative events that must be considered. Some tend to occur now and then from which some sort of incomplete recovery may be possible—even ones that involve acts that cannot themselves be undone such as deaths; furthermore so-called recovery from major hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis does not result in the same physical state as before. Such events are generally considered to be crises or disasters. Other events may occur that are totally surprising and truly devastating (for example, the comet activity that is believed to have caused a sudden end of the dinosaurs).


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