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Hardware is not the answer

I generally leave bloviating about computer security to people like Bruce Schneier, since they are, after all, professionals, but this particular post on his blog came within millimeters of calling for something that I thought was dead and buried in the computer world: the network computer.

The NC was all the rage in certain sectors of the IT field about ten years back: a simple workstation whose main virtue was that it had no input/output ports aside from the bare essentials: the video port for the monitor, the serial port for the mouse, the PS/2 port for the keyboard, and an Ethernet port. No USB ports, no floppy, hard or CD drives; the thing was basically a smart terminal that ran most of its software off the network. In a sense it was a direct descendant of the dumb terminals that were the client end of the old mainframe client/server networks. The big selling points were supposed to be the low cost of the NC (as opposed to a traditional workstation with all the bells and whistles) and the near-complete security an NC offered.

The authors of the Wikipedia article thought the NC might be ahead of its time, since most internet access was by dialup in those days, making web-based applications a tad problematic. The corporate market was also lacking, since fully loaded workstations were already available at competitive prices. Perhaps the day of the NC has returned, if Bruce is right, but the question is whether the suits in the corporate headquarters are interested in reworking their entire installed base of PC workstations and servers for what may be seen as marginal gains in security. In the end, businesses might be better served by improved computer security training and an attitude of "We're all in this together," rather than treating firewalls, antivirus and other protective software as pearls cast before swine. It's true that there are a lot of people out there who have barely mastered the power switch, but the more we get users to act like a pack instead of a herd, the better off we're all going to be in the ongoing guerrilla war against the hackers, crackers, script kiddies and other trolls lurking under the bridges of the Information Superhighway.

Via Instapundit.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
hyperblaster
Feb. 24th, 2006 05:25 am (UTC)
Wooohooo!!! Someone else thinks Bruce Schneier is cool!! I was obsessed with Schneier's Cryptogram newsletter during my younger days as an undergrad studying CS. Loved the way he would poo-pooh all kinds of pompous-sounding commercial programs as utter snake oil!
wombat_socho
Feb. 24th, 2006 01:23 pm (UTC)
He's an interesting guy. Back before he became a crypto superstar and best-selling author, we used to be in the same APA (Amateur Press Association) together. We don't see each other much these days, but I still have the subscription to his newsletter.
hyperblaster
Feb. 26th, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)
Well, he's certainly not so amateur any more!
wombat_socho
Feb. 26th, 2006 05:18 pm (UTC)
Even in those days, he was fairly well known in the crypto field. I remember joking with him before he left on a trip to Australia that due to the munitions export control acts the NSA would probably require him to leave his brain in a jar at LAX.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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