March 19, 2009

Design, Emergence and Multistability [9:22 am]

Computer Experts Unite to Hunt Worm (pdf)

The inability of the world’s best computer security technologists to gain the upper hand against anonymous but determined cybercriminals is viewed by a growing number of those involved in the fight as evidence of a fundamental security weakness in the global network.

“I walked up to a three-star general on Wednesday and asked him if he could help me deal with a million-node botnet,” said Rick Wesson, a computer security researcher involved in combating Conficker. “I didn’t get an answer.”

[...] Researchers who have been painstakingly disassembling the Conficker code have not been able to determine where the author, or authors, is located, or whether the program is being maintained by one person or a group of hackers. The growing suspicion is that Conficker will ultimately be a computing-for-hire scheme. Researchers expect it will imitate the hottest fad in the computer industry, called cloud computing, in which companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems sell computing as a service over the Internet.

[...] Several people who have analyzed various versions of the program said Conficker’s authors were obviously monitoring the efforts to restrict the malicious program and had repeatedly demonstrated that their skills were at the leading edge of computer technology.

I’m not sure that the “fundamental security weakness” is in the network, and I’m equally unsure that network (re)design alone is going to resolve it, either. But an easy to identify villain (pdf) always makes for good copy.

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