Recent developments in the pervasiveness and mobility of computer systems in open computer net-works have invalidated traditional assumptions about trust in computer communications security. Ina fundamentally decentralised and open network such as the Internet, the responsibility for answer-ing the question of whether one can trust another entity on the network now lies with the individualagent, and not a priori a decision to be governed by a central authority.Online agents represent users’ digital identities. Thus, we believe that it is reasonable to exploresocial models of trust for secure agent communication. The thesis of this work is that it is feasible todesign and formalise a dynamic model of trust for secure communications based on the propertiesof social trust.In showing this, we divide this work into two phases. The aim of the ﬁrst is to understand theproperties and dynamics of social trust and its role in computer systems. To this end, a thoroughreview of trust, and its supporting concept, reputation, in the social sciences was carried out. Wefollowed this by a rigorous analysis of current trust models, comparing their properties with thoseof social trust. We found that current models were designed in an ad-hoc basis, with regards to trustproperties.The aim of the second phase is to build a framework for trust reasoning in distributed systems.Knowledge from the previous phase is used to design and formally specify, in Z, a computationaltrust model. A simple model for the communication of recommendations, the recommendationprotocol, is also outlined to complement the model. Finally an analysis of possible threats to themodel is carried out.Elements of this work have been incorporated into Sun’s JXTA framework and Ericsson Research’sprototype trust model.