Lateral security: networked immunity everywhere!

At a modest estimate the ‘Dark Side’ should be overpowered by the ‘Good’ of the computing world by at least 3000:1. But how well is the ‘Good’ doing? Peter Cochrane explains…

Our governments, companies, banks, institutions and security services are more than a match for the rogue states, organised crime, hacker groups, and those lone sharks huddled over screens in a multitude of bedrooms. The Good has more manpower, compute power, facilities, knowledge and money by a huge degree, and yet the Dark Side continues to prosper! How come?

It is all down to the power of networking. One side operates in a secret ‘need to know’ mode whilst the other is of necessity ‘need to share’ – it is as simple as that. The Dark Side are the ultimate networkers and sharers, and the magnification effect is exponential.

So what can the Good do to win? Firewalls don’t work and malware protection is always after the fact, a band aid applied to a known and already serious threat. The Good are also slow to detect incursions and even slower to respond, in effect, always on the back foot. We need to be pro-active, fast and anticipatory; then and only then can we hope to turn back the tide of the Dark. If we do not, we are already hatching a new and far worse nightmare called the ‘Internet of Things’ – or more correctly, ‘Clouds of Things’. The potential risks are obvious and the solutions non-existent. Today’s design and build of the IoT is so badly flawed it is bound to end in tears.

We probably have one big shot at creating an effective defence mechanism. This is founded on the established biological principles of white cells and auto-immunity.

Building hard and soft malware traps into every chip, card, device, shelf, rack, suite, room, building and network will cure the problem. The automatic detection and isolation of malware, followed by removal and destruction is a necessity because people cannot do it; this appears to be the only response likely to disrupt and put the Dark Side on the back foot. If the organisations and people of the Good will not network and share, then their hardware and software has to do it for them.

Is such a proposition viable? Some big players are looking at it already and the hardware and software overhead appears minimal. And so we might conjure a number of future scenarios, but the most iconic goes something like this. A man walks into a coffee shop with an infected mobile which tries to infect everything on WiFi and Bluetooth that is in range.

But these devices recognise or suspect an attack and isolate the infected device. They then collectively search out the ‘antidote malware remedy’, and upload it to attack the infection. Once confirmed as clean, the mobile device is accepted back into the community and allowed to connect and communicate.

This might all sound complex and cumbersome, but it turns out not to be so and such detection and immunisation cycles can occur in seconds unnoticed by the human owner. Better still, we no longer need to get involved in security as individuals; displaced by machine intelligence we are left to get on with what we do best – creating, solving, building and changing. Where does the ultimate responsibility then lie? The producers and supplier of hardware and software have a new product line, service and responsibility

Of course, the Dark Side will try to subvert all this, but by then it could be ‘game over’ and too late. I just hope the Good get off the grid and cross the winning line really soon!

This article first appeared in The Journal, Volume 10, Part 1 – 2016. The Journal is free to all ITP members, to find out about joining visit our website

Dr Peter Cochrane, OBE, BSc, MSc, PhD, DSc, CGIA, FREng, FRSA, FIEE, FIEEE.peter

Peter is an entrepreneur, business and engineering advisor to international industries and governments. He has worked across: hardware, software, systems, network, adaptive system design and operations. He currently runs his own company across four continents, is a visiting Professor at Hertfordshire University and was formerly CTO at BT and has received numerous awards including an OBE and IEEE Millennium Medal.

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