Sunday, June 6

Say Hello to the Nice Mad Scientist, Dear

In my previous post I named three ideas I had recently which I admitted might not be original or even practical.

Taking these in no particular order, I'll describe tonight the invention I call Safe Computing with Ephemeral VM Environments.

As background we note that there are all sorts of computing hazards online — viruses, worms, trojans, and whachamacallits that we don't care to distinguish between for the purposes of this discussion. Users can't be expected to fend-off all these attacks by running virus checkers and spyware scanners and firewalls and patching their OS and updating the checkers and scanners and spraying the motherboard with Lysol. If people don't do these things, however, they may find that their computers become unusable or weaken national security!

The problem we wish to solve is: we want to make a computing environment in which even naive users can visit evil websites, open arbitrary email attachments or run unknown executables pretty much without fear of consequences.

To solve this problem, I propose that every time you use a computer you use a brand new one, and once you are done with your particular task you destroy that machine by, say, grinding it into a fine powder and burying that in your garden. Clearly, if you do this you don't need to worry about your privacy being compromised — the computer doesn't know anything about you. And you don't have to worry about the computer harboring nasty software either — it is going to be destroyed in a few minutes.

Perceptive computer-science types will likely note that this doesn't address all uses of computers or all the security problems. Some computer tasks that have side effects (say, write files) are not supported, and some consequences of attacks (such as zombies, see the national security issue mentioned above) are not mitigated.

Readers with a background in economics may suggest that this solution would require converting the global industrial base entirely to the production of computer systems. Our ecologically-minded colleagues will object to large quantities of toxic powder that would be created if this proposal was widely followed.

We will address these objections in our next posting.

1 comment:

AMS said...
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