Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quarantine for Computers

Scott Charney is a guy who works at Microsoft with an interesting theory on how to manage the problem of infected computers passing malicious software on to other computers. Charney believes that infected computers should be quarantined just as we would with a sick person.

It's actually not a bad idea and Charney makes a convincing argument for the case, explaining that, "Just as when an individual who is not vaccinated puts others' health at risk, computers that are not protected or have been compromised with a bot put others at risk and pose a greater threat to society."

Quarantining for computers is actually feasible through the use of what's known as network access protection, or NAP. NAP applications are used to analyze the security apparatus for a given computer before allowing it to connect with a network. Computers that are deemed unsafe for a variety of reasons are redirected to a site that details minimum-security requirements.

However as Charney points out in his own blog posts, the vast number of botnets and computers that host malicious software are owned by consumers. As consumers we have no IT department or regularly scheduled system maintenance. We just want our computer to work like any other piece of electronics around the house. So most people don’t spend a lot of time on sophisticated security applications. And even if they did, it might not be enough.

Charney's solution can be seen as being inline with the policy of not letting people with highly contagious diseases fly. As Charney says, "In the physical world, international, national, and local health organizations identify, track and control the spread of disease which can include, where necessary, quarantining people to avoid the infection of others."

Of course trying to implement system-wide security standards for all Internet users would be an enormous logistical challenge. Not only that but in light of the Tea Party's seeming resistance to any kind of restriction being added to anything, anywhere, it would likely become a hotbed political issue if it were proposed in an election year.

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