Computer-Related Risks

Peter G. Neumann

Addison-Wesley 1994
A book review by Danny Yee © 1995
Disasters, crimes and high technology are all naturally attractive subjects, amd Computer-Related Risks has plenty to offer. While the blurb claims that it is "much more than a collection of computer mishaps", the bulk of it does consist of fairly straightforward descriptions of different "incidents". These are arranged both thematically, into chapters with titles such as "Reliability and Safety Problems" or "Threats to Privacy and Well-Being", and by area (such as avionics or banking). Neumann does a good job of providing succinct descriptions which contain the information essential to understanding what went wrong (unlike typical newspaper accounts). Some of the material — such as that on accidents in health services — is frightening; some of it is just intriguing — the possibility that there are other intelligent life-forms in the universe but that they encrypt and compress their signals so efficiently that all we see is white noise. Neumann ends each chapter with an attempt at general analysis, and though this often consists of truisms and straight typological classification, that is more of an indication of how much work there is to be done in the field than of any failing on his part. A set of questions comes with each chapter.

While Computer-Related Risks is (to quote from the blurb again) a "serious, technically oriented book", it is so broad in scope that it has little technical depth, and most of it will be accessible to anyone with basic computer literacy. I wouldn't want to put limits on its potential audience, but a few groups are obvious: people involved in risk management in an area that involves computers (i.e. anyone involved in risk management); those who have to make potentially hazardous decisions in the design, implementation or operation of computer systems — network administrators, software engineers, protocol designers and managers of all kinds —; and anyone whose life or livelihood is critically dependent on computers. As pointed out above, however, this sort of material has general appeal, and I think Computer-Related Risks will be enjoyed by almost anyone interested in computers.

January 1995

External links:
- buy from or
Related reviews:
- books about computing
- books published by Addison-Wesley
%T Computer-Related Risks
%A Neumann, Peter G.
%I Addison-Wesley
%D 1994
%O paperback, bibliography, glossary, index
%G ISBN 020155805X
%P xv,367pp