Ross J. Anderson

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Ross Anderson

Ross Anderson in 2008
Ross John Anderson

(1956-09-15) 15 September 1956 (age 67)[4]
EducationHigh School of Glasgow
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (MA, PhD)
Known for
  • Banking security
  • Security economics
  • Information policy
  • Serpent (cipher)
  • University of Cambridge politics
  • Security Engineering book[5]
AwardsLovelace Medal (2015)
Scientific career
ThesisRobust Computer Security (1995)
Doctoral advisorRoger Needham[3]
Doctoral students Edit this at Wikidata

Ross John Anderson FRS FREng FIMA FIET [6][7][4] (born 15 September 1956)[4] is a researcher, author, and industry consultant in security engineering.[5] He is Professor of Security Engineering at the Department of Computer Science and Technology, University of Cambridge[8] where he is part of the University's security group.[9][10][11]


Anderson was educated at the High School of Glasgow.[4] In 1978, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and natural science from the University of Cambridge where he was an undergraduate student of Trinity College, Cambridge, and subsequently received a qualification in computer engineering. Anderson worked in the avionics and banking industry before moving back to the University of Cambridge in 1992, to work on his doctorate under the supervision of Roger Needham[12] and start his career as an academic researcher.[2] He received his PhD in 1995, and became a lecturer in the same year.[4]

Research and career[edit]

Anderson on Malware (2010)

Anderson's research interests[1][3][9] are in security, cryptology, dependability and technology policy.[1] In cryptography, he designed with Eli Biham the BEAR, LION and Tiger cryptographic primitives, and co-wrote with Biham and Lars Knudsen the block cipher Serpent, one of the finalists in the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) competition. He has also discovered weaknesses in the FISH cipher and designed the stream cipher Pike.

Anderson has always campaigned for computer security to be studied in a wider social context. Many of his writings emphasise the human, social, and political dimension of security. On online voting, for example, he writes "When you move from voting in person to voting at home (whether by post, by phone or over the internet) it vastly expands the scope for vote buying and coercion",[13] making the point that it's not just a question of whether the encryption can be cracked.

In 1998, Anderson founded the Foundation for Information Policy Research, a think tank and lobbying group on information-technology policy.

Anderson is also a founder of the UK-Crypto mailing list and the economics of security research domain.[14]

He is well-known among Cambridge academics as an outspoken defender of academic freedoms, intellectual property and other matters of university politics. He is engaged in the "Campaign for Cambridge Freedoms"[15] and has been an elected member of Cambridge University Council since 2002.[16] In January 2004, the student newspaper Varsity declared Anderson to be Cambridge University's "most powerful person".[17]

In 2002, he became an outspoken critic of trusted computing proposals, in particular Microsoft's Palladium operating system vision.[18]

Anderson's TCPA FAQ has been characterised by IBM TC researcher David R. Safford as "full of technical errors" and of "presenting speculation as fact."[19]

For years Anderson has been arguing that by their nature large databases will never be free of abuse by breaches of security. He has said that if a large system is designed for ease of access it becomes insecure; if made watertight it becomes impossible to use. This is sometimes known as Anderson's Rule.[20]

Anderson is the author of Security Engineering, published by Wiley in 2001.[5] He was the founder and editor of Computer and Communications Security Reviews.[2] After the vast Global surveillance disclosure leaked by Edward Snowden beginning in June 2013 Anderson suggested one way to begin stamping out the British state's unaccountable involvement in this NSA spying scandal is to entirely end the domestic secret services. Anderson: "Were I a legislator, I would simply abolish MI5". Anderson notes the only way this kind of systemic data collection has been made possible was through the business models of private industry. The value of information-driven web companies such as Facebook and Google is built around their ability to gather vast tracts of data. It was something the intelligence agencies would have struggled with alone.[21]

Anderson is a critic of smart meters, writing that there are various privacy and energy security concerns.[22]

Awards and honours[edit]

Anderson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2009. His nomination reads:

Professor Ross Anderson, Personal Chair in Security Engineering, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

Ross Anderson is a pioneer and world leader in security engineering, and is distinguished for starting a number of new areas of research in hardware, software and systems.

His early work on how systems fail established a base of empirical evidence for building threat models for a wide range of applications from banking to healthcare.

He has made trailblazing contributions that helped establish a number of new research topics, including security usability, hardware tamper-resistance, information hiding, and the analysis of application programming interfaces.

He is also one of the founders of the study of information security economics, which not only illuminates where the most effective attacks and defences may be found, but is also of fundamental importance to making policy for the information society.[23]

Anderson was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 2009.[6][7][4][2] He is a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.[24]


  1. ^ a b c Ross J. Anderson publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ a b c d Curriculum Vitae – Ross Anderson, May 2007
  3. ^ a b c Ross J. Anderson at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ a b c d e f Anon (2014). "Anderson, Prof. Ross John". Who's Who (online edition via Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U70837. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ a b c Anderson, Ross (2008). Security engineering: a guide to building dependable distributed systems. New York: John Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-06852-6.
  6. ^ a b "The Royal Academy of Engineering Annual Report 2009/2010".
  7. ^ a b "List of Fellows".
  8. ^ The Blue Book – "The Computer Laboratory: an Introduction”, University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, August 2007 Archived 5 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b Ross J. Anderson's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  10. ^ Ross J. Anderson author profile page at the ACM Digital Library
  11. ^ Anderson, R. J. (1999). "Information technology in medical practice: Safety and privacy lessons from the United Kingdom". The Medical Journal of Australia. 170 (4): 181–4. doi:10.5694/j.1326-5377.1999.tb127721.x. PMID 10078187. S2CID 16255335.
  12. ^ Anderson, Ross John (2014). Robust Computer Security. (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 53659223. EThOS
  13. ^ Nicole Kobie (30 March 2015). "Why electronic voting isn't secure – but may be safe enough".
  14. ^ Ross Anderson: Why information security is hard – an economic perspective Archived 11 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, ACSAC 2001.
  15. ^ Campaign for Cambridge Freedoms
  16. ^ Election to the Council: Notices 2 December 2002 and 7 November 2006, Cambridge University Reporter
  17. ^ Cambridge Power 100, Varsity, Issue 591, 16 January 2004
  18. ^ Ross Anderson: ‘Trusted Computing’ Frequently Asked Questions, August 2003
  19. ^$FILE/tcpa_rebuttal.pdf[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Guardian newspaper article on a security breach, in which Anderson's Rule is formulated
  21. ^ Cambridge's Head of Cryptography: I Would Abolish MI5, Forbes, 3 January 2013
  22. ^ Archived 13 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine[bare URL PDF]
  23. ^ "EC/2009/02: Anderson, Ross". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 7 July 2019.
  24. ^ "Professor Ross Anderson FRS, FREng". Churchill College, Cambridge. Retrieved 14 May 2021.