Philosophy and Technology 32 (4):627-659 (2019)

Phyllis Illari
University College London
We show how more general knowledge can be built in information security, by the building of knowledge of mechanism clusters, some of which are multifield. By doing this, we address in a novel way the longstanding philosophical problem of how, if at all, we come to have knowledge that is in any way general, when we seem to be confined to particular experiences. We also address the issue of building knowledge of mechanisms by studying an area that is new to the mechanisms literature: the methods of what we shall call mechanism discovery in information security. This domain offers a fascinating novel constellation of challenges for building more general knowledge. Specifically, the building of stable communicable mechanistic knowledge is impeded by the inherent changeability of software, which is deployed by malicious actors constantly changing how their software attacks, and also by an ineliminable secrecy concerning the details of attacks not just by attackers, but also by information security defenders as they protect their methods from both attackers and commercial competitors. We draw out ideas from the work of the mechanists Darden, Craver, and Glennan to yield an approach to how general knowledge of mechanisms can be painstakingly built. We then use three related examples of active research problems from information security to develop philosophical thinking about building general knowledge using mechanisms, and also apply this to develop insights for information security. We show that further study would be instructive both for practitioners and for philosophers.
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DOI 10.1007/s13347-018-0329-z
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