Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Seeing No Evil

CIO Magazine
In a mock courthouse earlier this year, the smack of a gavel opened a case for the ages. Behind one bench, the defendants: Internet service providers, on trial for not providing adequate security to their customers. Behind the other bench, the plaintiffs: fictional companies ravaged by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. The jury: hundreds of IT security professionals, packed into a conference room at the Gartner IT Security Summit to watch it all unfold.

The plaintiffs argued that ISPs could do much more to improve security by scanning subscriber computers, monitoring traffic and shutting down suspicious network uses. The defendants claimed that performing such scans would violate user privacy and that it would be impossible to distinguish malicious traffic from legitimate e-mails.

Accusations flew. The plaintiffs equated ISP intransigence to that of a homeowner whose property is dangerous but doesn't buy a fence to keep others out. In response, the defendants said people should stay away from dangerous property; that safety is a responsibility that falls squarely on the individual. Next, in a rhetorical ploy, defense lawyers asked jurors if any of them would be willing to stay at a hotel that offered Internet access in exchange for the right to scan all computers for security vulnerabilities. Not one member of the audience raised a hand.

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