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The End of Promiscuous Computing

by on December 9, 2014

As I get older I find myself using the phrase “Remember When?” more and more often.

Remember when candy bars cost a nickel?

Remember when kids would just go out and play after school?

Remember when you could get hired by a company, work your whole life there, and retire with a pension?

As the cyber-attacks mount, I think we’re seeing the emergence of a new “remember when”.

Remember when we used to go on the Internet and download code from vaguely anonymous servers that we would run on our personal computers? Often inside our “secure” business networks?

Of course this isn’t really going to have the nostalgic feel of 5-cent candy bars. It’s going to have the feel of some old hippy telling you about random unprotected sex in the bathroom of Studio 54.

Oh sure, Java’s got a security model and every browser explains how it keeps you safe. There are plenty of new technologies coming out to make this sort of promiscuous behavior less dangerous. Listen, I’m all for antibiotics and vitamins, but that doesn’t mean you lick the inside of the subway car as part of your morning NYC commute.

I loved the stories on the free flashlight apps this week. If you were my neighbor you could have heard me screaming at my kids. “They’re free applications! Why do you think they wrote them!? Do you think there’s some sort of Our Holy Sisters of Technology mobile application nunnery in Serbia churning out free mobile apps as a public service!? Of course they’re stealing from you, you idiots!”

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to cut down recreational surfing at work. Do we really need to run our fantasy football league from our work computer using the free fantasy football web application? Do we really need to check on last night’s scores from a web page supported by on-demand applications that can basically contain any code the advertiser would like?

Here’s a new killer app for BYOD: bring your own device to work so you can infect that device with your personal recreational surfing instead of ours.

There are a lot of technical solutions being deployed to reduce the threat of this new breed of Advanced Persistent Attacks. I love containers, behavioral based risk management, sandboxes, and all the other new technologies helping cut down these attacks. That’s good, we need all that. But, we’re kidding ourselves if we think that we’ll continue to get away with promiscuous computing.

We’re just licking the subway car.

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