After spending 48 hours with some of the world’s most skilled programmers (Hackers Conference), it was possible to make some generalizations about what’s on their minds. About half of the time blocks included a session on security, consistent with Zurich’s prediction that, by 2019, the cost of securing the Internet will exceed the value of the Internet (previous post).
What would it take to have real assurance that the systems we bring into our businesses and personal lives won’t be turned against us? Some of the participants suggested that we will need to start by simplifying the hardware. It would be better to sacrifice some processor performance to obtain a processor simple enough to understand. “Start with the 8051 and build out from there,” was one theme. Looking at the PDP-10 manual on saildart.org, one expert commented “The errata sheet for a modern processor is probably longer.” [The PDP-10 was a powerful mainframe of the 1960s.]
After that we would need much simpler operating systems that (1) were small enough to understand, and (2) provided true isolation among programs and protection against malicious code. Perhaps something like MULTICS. Participants agreed that Google’s Chrome OS was probably the best current desktop option from a security standpoint.
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack to the tune of 400 Gbits/second was described as “trivial” and the result is that “nobody can be up if someone wants them down.” Are standalone Internet publishing businesses that depend on advertising overvalued as a result? The revenue stream can dwindle as readers install ad-blockers or turn their attention to Facebook. The revenue stream can be cut off any time by a DDOS attack.
Where there are challenges, of course, there is opportunity. Some folks noted that insurance companies writing computer security policies were taking wild guesses at the risk and that it should be possible for a company staffed with security/software experts to make money simultaneously insuring and analyzing/securing.
- map of worldwide cyberattacks, complete with exciting graphics