Digital Architecture as Crime Control
Posted: 2 Dec 2002
This paper explains how theories of realspace architecture inform the prevention of computer crime. Despite the prevalence of the metaphor, architects in realspace and cyberspace have not talked to one another. There is a dearth of literature about digital architecture and crime altogether, and the realspace architectural literature on crime prevention is often far too soft for many software engineers. This paper will suggest the broad brushstrokes of potential design solutions to cybercrime, and in the course of so doing, will pose severe criticisms of the White House's recent proposals on cybersecurity.
The paper begins by introducing four concepts of realspace crime prevention through architecture. Design should: (1) create opportunities for natural surveillance, meaning its visibility and susceptibility to monitoring by residents, neighbors, and bystanders; (2) instill a sense of territoriality so that residents develop proprietary attitudes and outsiders feel deterred from entering a private space; (3) build communities and avoid social isolation; and (4) protect targets of crime. There are digital analogues to each goal. Natural-surveillance principles suggest new virtues of open-source platforms, such as Linux, and territoriality outlines a strong case for moving away from digital anonymity towards psuedonymity. The goal of building communities will similarly expose some new advantages for the original, and now eroding, end-to-end design of the Internet. An understanding of architecture and target prevention will illuminate why firewalls at end points will more effectively guarantee security than will attempts to bundle security into the architecture of the Net. And, in total, these architectural lessons will help us chart an alternative course to the federal government's tepid approach to computer crime. By leaving the bulk of crime prevention to market forces, the government will encourage private barricades to develop - the equivalent of digital gated communities - with terrible consequences for the Net in general and interconnectivity in particular.
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