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Security Threat Analysis: Interview With Dino A. Dai Zovi

Hypervisors And The Cloud

Alan: What do you think about future approaches to security such as a dumb terminal approach (i.e. Citrix or VNC in a world with infinitely fast bandwidth and infinitely small latency)?

Dino: I think we are moving towards a Web-based thin-terminal world, whether we like it or not. Once consumers realize that when their data is stored in the cloud, that they never have to worry about losing it, then they will begin to prefer it. If providers give users enough options such that they believe that they are as in control of their data as they are on their own system, they will have faith in it. This means allowing users to encrypt their data so that even the provider cannot see the file names or their contents.

Alan: That’s the thing though, is it a better solution? I’ll be the first to admit that I use Gmail because it’s so convenient to have “email anywhere.” With that said, I’m sure there’s stuff I’ve emailed via Gmail that I probably wouldn’t want anyone else to read. 

I assume Gmail has redundant storage, but what happens if their hard drives crash, or my Internet is dead? If I was a hacker, wouldn’t it always makes more sense to try to exploit Gmail (and get millions of credit card numbers) as opposed to my own  personal computer and get one person’s financial info?

Once the world moves to SSD, I’d predict that an individual user would have similar levels of reliability. Plus any sort of encryption Google could do, an individual could do on his home system (if not better encryption given that he’d be able to dedicate CPU resources toward a single user). Do you encrypt everything on your personal desktops and notebooks?

Dino: I’m also a huge fan of SSDs. I love their silent, fast, and reliable operation. As for data confidentiality, I use full-disk encryption and power down as often as is conveniently possible. The existing attacks against FDE require access to a powered-on or very recently powered-off system.

Alan: What about secure hypervisors?

Dino: So far, secure hypervisors have been used to protect the hardware business model from the users and owners of those systems. Systems such as video game consoles use secure hypervisors to prevent the owner from tampering with it. I would love to see software manufacturers provide a secure hypervisor to protect my data.

Alan: As would I, provided it was developed by a talented company and was reasonably priced. In the 90's, security researchers had to deal with the threat of polymorphic viruses which could elude many signature-based anti virus tools. What do you think the challenges in the next 2 years will be?

Dino: Signature-based anti-virus is an optimization that we have confused for a solution. The challenge over the next few years will be developing and deploying systems that are able to detect and prevent unknown exploits and malware. The highly profitable business model of signature-based anti-virus subscriptions discourages those companies from developing better and more generic solutions to the problem. That, however, leaves room for start-ups to innovate in this space.

  • cruiseoveride
    Wonder why he didnt mention SELinux
    Reply
  • mrubermonkey
    If it were so easy to "take down the Internet" I am sure Iran or China would have done it by now, but the vagueness of his last answer does add to the mystic of his image.
    Reply
  • AlanDang
    Not really -- the black hats make money off the Internet -- it doesn't help them. By definition though, the risk is always about "taking down" a few IXP's or the +1 nodes.
    Reply
  • "Selectively granting privileges to enhanced functionality to Web sites is an area where most Web browsers can improve".

    They may not be core functions but everyone I know who is concerned with security on the Internet uses Firefow with the add-ins Noscript & Flashblock.
    Reply
  • vaskodogama
    mrubermonkeyIf it were so easy to "take down the Internet" I am sure Iran or China would have done it by now, but the vagueness of his last answer does add to the mystic of his image.I am from Iran, All the Iranian Goverment can do, is blocking porn and politics web sites! :D
    Reply
  • pcworm
    I'm also from Iran , come one, we still connect using bloody dial up, you guys cant be serious! although due to the "no copyright" law we can buy Windows, Mathlab, VS 2008 team System,office 2007 and a lot more for less than a dollar each...:-) you dont need broadband here cause piracy is official
    Reply
  • Gutbop
    Dino: I'm a die-hard Unix user and Mac OS X is the most convenient and functional Unix-based operating system that I have ever used. I can code in a traditional Unix environment, watch a DVD, and use Microsoft Office all on the same system. The system JUST WORKS and lets me get my job done.

    Ahahahaha. Really!? Are you kidding me? Did Apple pay you to say that?
    Reply
  • Gutbop
    Dino: I'm a die-hard Unix user and Mac OS X is the most convenient and functional Unix-based operating system that I have ever used. I can code in a traditional Unix environment, watch a DVD, and use Microsoft Office all on the same system. The system JUST WORKS and lets me get my job done.

    Ahahahaha. Really!? Are you kidding me? Did Apple pay you to say that?
    Reply
  • Gutbop
    Dino: I'm a die-hard Unix user and Mac OS X is the most convenient and functional Unix-based operating system that I have ever used. I can code in a traditional Unix environment, watch a DVD, and use Microsoft Office all on the same system. The system JUST WORKS and lets me get my job done.

    Ahahahaha. Really!? Are you kidding me? Did Apple pay you to say that?
    Reply
  • I am a Mac user as well. I also use many versions of Windows and Linux in VM. I am not a security expert or anything but why is everyone hung up on someone taking down the internet. Hackers use the net to make money or prove a point. I don't think they are going to shut the net down and hold it hostage, who would be forking over the money anyway. And if they did it to prove a point how would they ever get recognition for the task when all communication stops.
    Reply