Re: computronium prime-oxide

Mike Linksvayer (
Wed, 18 Nov 1998 19:54:16 -0800

Eugene Leitl wrote:
> In fact, the longer it takes before the worm strikes, the more
> dramatic will the effects be. If the worm strikes a decade from now,
> y2k will look like an infinitesimally small beer in comparison.
> How can one address it? TCP/IP is too complex to be implemented in
> hardware, and protocols stacks cannot be made secure. Even if, there
> is still the application layer. Even security by obscurity (system
> diversity, which is not necessary an observable trend) won't help if
> the code is smart enough to discover exploits autonomously.
> Does anybody see any workaround against this? I don't.

The obvious and politically correct answer: * Encourage the use of open source software -- security holes are found and fixed faster.
* Don't create an environment in which hackers are treated harshly for relatively harmless exploits -- more holes found and faster, perhaps well-behaved worms are created to seek out and report exploitable holes.

Obscurity and diversity seem very different to me. I don't know if increasing system diversity is an observable trend now, but it's easy to think of reasons why it won't decrease and will likely increase:
* I'd guess that unix, Microsoft, Macintosh, and various network hardware accounts for nearly all of the systems on the net now. None of these are going away.
* Both dominant providers are facing perilous product transitions (Microsoft Win9x -> Win2k, Intel IA32 -> IA64). Each is very likely to lose market share for this and other reasons, opening up the field for new systems.
* Everything else that isn't connected but likely will be at some point (phones, TVs, handhelds, electronic pets, etc.), adding lots of diversity. This could be a problem though -- many of these devices will probably be very insecure and unpatchable.

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