Fort Knox is no model for the internet by Jonathan Zittrain
Posted in: Governance at 04/06/2010 16:13
A few weeks ago PC security company McAfee released an update to its anti-virus software. For some customers, the update mistakenly destroyed a legitimate and crucial file in the Windows operating system. Hundreds of thousands of personal computers, perhaps millions, were rendered unusable. One university lost the use of 8,000 of its 25,000 PCs, and some affected hospitals turned away non-trauma patients from their emergency rooms. This debacle is an example of a structural failing in security that echoes across the entire internet.
We can call it the "Fort Knox" problem. The famed US bullion depository offers security through centralisation. Gunships, tanks, and 30,000 soldiers surround a vault containing more than $700bn in gold. But while such centralisation is ideal for a government's bullion it is an awful model for internet security.