Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Forbes: Our Frankenputer

An article in Forbes places much of the blame on the sainted John von Neumann!

"Malicious software, or malware, costs us much in vandalism, more in data theft and most of all in forced countermeasures. We hire experts, build firewalls, subscribe to antivirus services, plan backups. Still it goes on:Now we have a pandemic of e-mail phishing scams and spyware that downloads itself surreptitiously with song-pirating software. There are simple things you can do to protect yourself, and there are things the computer industry is doing to solve the problem, but in the meantime it is also helpful to grasp just how sorry this state of affairs really is."

"But if the Von Neumann theory makes evil programs possible, it does not make them inevitable. From the beginning, the PC has made cybervandalism too easy. The computer is impossible to completely secure because it descends directly from a design that didn't take security into account. In terms of security, the PC's design is a breathtaking kludge--a sequence of defensive maneuvers and patches that play a futile catch-up game with malicious software. It's hard to overestimate how poisonous an environment the global Internet is. Peter Tippett, a physician who invented the antivirus software now sold by Norton and who is now chief technologist at computer security firm Cybertrust, conducted an experiment a year ago. He bought ten computers in ten different cities and hooked them up to high-speed Internet connections, then tried to load a Windows patch designed to keep out particular worms, a delivery vehicle for viral payloads. Three of the ten machines were either hacked or infected with worms within minutes, before the patches could even download."



Post a Comment