Sidebar 5-7: Security as an Add-On
In the 1980s, the U.S. State Department handled its diplomatic office functions with a network of Wang computers. Each American embassy had at least one Wang system, with specialized word processing software to create documents, modify them, store and retrieve them, and send them from one location to another. Supplementing Wang's office automation software was the State Department's own Foreign Affairs Information System (FAIS).
In the mid-1980s, the State Department commissioned a private contractor to add security to FAIS. Diplomatic and other correspondence was to be protected by a secure "envelope" surrounding sensitive materials. The added protection was intended to prevent unauthorized parties from "opening" an envelope and reading the contents.
To design and implement the security features, the contractor had to supplement features offered by Wang's operating system and utilities. The security design depended on the current Wang VS operating system design, including the use of unused words in operating system files. As designed and implemented, the new security features worked properly and met the State Department requirements. But the system was bound for failure because the evolutionary goals of VS were different from those of the State Department. That is, Wang could not guarantee that future modifications to VS would preserve the functions and structure required by the contractor's security software. Eventually, there were fatal clashes of intent and practice.