Zero-day holiday

Sobering up fast

We encourage readers to use our free mailing lists - including Bugtraq - to share information on workarounds to this problem, and how these can be applied in your environment. As one of the cornerstones of the security community, we encourage you to ask the hard questions and do whatever it takes to protect the networks you work on from today’s massive Windows XP exploit threat.

Let us hope that law enforcement and politicians take note of this situation in the weeks and months that follow, and craft (or enforce) legislation and risk management that might help. Now, onto more positive things.

21-day holiday

With nothing positive to say about today’s zero-day Windows exploit situation, I’d like to look at the bright side of computers, networks and security for a moment.

A few months ago at the United Nation’s World Summit, the brilliant researchers and visionaries at MIT and the MIT Media Lab showed a prototype of a robust, inexpensive green computer - a $100 laptop for every child, complete with a hand-crank for power. Widely covered in the media, this is one of the greatest initiatives I have ever seen to help spread education and knowledge - in a safe and secure environment - to some of the world’s poorest children through the use of computers. I've been watching this with great interest since it was first announced a year ago.

MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte made a passionate speech about the importance of education in the developing world, and how a new ubiquitous, inexpensive communication and learning tool known as the $100 computer can make a major difference in the lives of the poorest of the poor. I found it interesting that when asked about the details of the technology behind the $100 computer, Negroponte repeatedly dodged the technology and focused on the aspect of education and learning. Having travelled extensively across a few of the world’s poorest countries myself, I believe that this device can indeed have a major impact on education. But how does this relate to security?

Perhaps one of the most refreshing aspects of the $100 computer is that I believe (and perhaps, hope) there will be no major security issues exploited on those systems. Absolutely none. That is, none except the ones the children find themselves. No, I’m not naïve enough to suggest that there won’t be vulnerabilities. Instead, I have to believe that a community of children could not possibly be researched, exploited and attacked by nefarious computer researchers or even criminals. Despite some of the terrible things that happen in our online world - including the fallout from the past week’s massive zero-day Windows XP vulnerability - I would hate to ever meet someone in real life whose goal is to compromise a poor child’s $100 computer. Let’s see the bright side of security, assuming there is one, and consider the “green computer” as a refreshing and novel concept.

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