Martin McKeay

Keeping the $100 laptop secure

By Martin McKeay
October 13, 2006 9:16 AM EDT
Securing the $100 laptop is not going to be an easy task, that's certain. When you plan on having millions of these all over the world, they're going to be a tempting target, not for the information on the systems, but for the spare computing power they'll offer up. Luckily, Ivan Krstic taking the most important first step, concentrating on security from the ground up with an Operating System that will be built specifically for this system.  The fact that he's asking security professionals and hackers from around the world for input is icing on the cake.

This project is avoiding one of the biggest problems with Windows and Macs, and to a lesser degree Linux, that those operating systems were not built with security during their initial creation.  So many of the problems we see today in Windows are relics from previous versions, such as the WMF vulnerability earlier this year.  Without such artifacts to defend,the $100 laptop should be able to create a much more robust security model.  Or so I would hope.

The other thing this system will hopefully have going for it is going to be limited functionality.  With a relatively few applications to defend, the attackable footprint of this machine will be much smaller than any of the multipurpose OS's out there.  After all, one of Windows greatest strengths, being everything for everyone, is also its greatest weakness.

I didn't used to think this project was ever going to happen.  It's a grand idea, to get computers to children around the world; but it sounds like the plan of a wild-eyed optimist.  I'm glad there are people in the world that think that way.  And I'm glad they're going to think about how to secure these systems from the beginning.