Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Fresh Approach For Computer Security

The quote, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler", of course, comes from Albert Einstein and is in a very interesting article, "Killing the Computer to Save It" in the New York Times by John Markoff.

This article is about Peter G. Neumann, an 80-year-old computer scientist at SRI International, who Markoff lists as the person who coined the term "Unics".  This is the first time I heard of this as this canonical story is that it was Brian Kernighan named it (in a humorous fashion) the Uniplexed Information and Computing System (UNICS) as a pun on MULTICS.   Neumann's statement, "complex systems break in complex ways” which could not be more accurate.  The article discusses the need for a fresh approach to computer security.

The article by John Markoff starts off with an interesting story earlier on in the article:
"As an applied-mathematics student at Harvard, Dr. Neumann had a two-hour breakfast with Einstein on Nov. 8, 1952. What the young math student took away was a deeply held philosophy of design that has remained with him for six decades and has been his governing principle of computing and computer security."
I could not agree more with the importance of taking a fresh look at computer architecture and computer security as the article points out below:
"The program includes two separate but related efforts: Crash, for Clean-Slate Design of Resilient Adaptive Secure Hosts; and MRC, for Mission-Oriented Resilient Clouds. The idea is to reconsider computing entirely, from the silicon wafers on which circuits are etched to the application programs run by users, as well as services that are placing more private and personal data in remote data centers.
Clean Slate is financing research to explore how to design computer systems that are less vulnerable to computer intruders and recover more readily once security is breached."
My oldest son John is in the computer profession as well with a BS and MS from VT.  I have given him (sometimes he even asked for :-) career advice over the years.   Something that I have told him and university/college students is the following, "you want to a job in computers?  Become a security expert or a performance god and you will always have a job."   The opportunities are endless because so are the challenges.  You can quote me on that last one :-)