Home > All, General Rants, Security Issues > Is Scott Charney, VP of Trustworthy Computing, confusing his title with Trusted Computing?

Is Scott Charney, VP of Trustworthy Computing, confusing his title with Trusted Computing?

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

According to a report in CRN, Microsoft Urges Quarantine Of Unsecure, Infected Computers.

Scott Charney, Microsoft vice president of trustworthy computing, said earlier this week that computers plagued with botnets should be treated in the same way as a person who is infected with a highly contagious disease, and urged governments, ISP and commercial organizations to emulate a public health model…

…”Just as when an individual who is not vaccinated puts others’ health at risk, computers that are not protected or have been compromised with a bot put others at risk and pose a greater threat to society,” he wrote.

By now, if we accept this to be an accurate report, I would hope everybody is beginning to get a bit concerned. And rightly so. The report goes on to say

Charney extended the metaphor by saying that global health organizations often aim to control the spread of a disease by tracking and identifying affected individuals and if necessary, placing them in a location where others can’t become infected.

Whoa! Hey, where is this going? That my

  • ISP (with whom I am in conflict because they lied to me when they promised a speed that they have never delivered; because I pay for ‘unlimited’ bandwidth that is limited by them; and because they illegally tracked customers across the internet – yes, you guessed it, it’s TalkTalk);
  • the government (and I have never trusted any government, anywhere, in my life);
  • or Microsoft perhaps

should be able to take me off the internet or stop me getting on to the internet because they’ve decided that my computer is infected?

OK, I haven’t seen the original text of Charney’s speech, so there is a danger that Chinese Whispers may come into effect. Maybe he said no such thing. But maybe the clue is in his title: VP of Trustworthy Computing. And maybe what he is really saying is that the chip already included in the majority of PCs around the world should be activated so that some central authority, like the Government, should be able to control what is allowed to run on our computers. Well France would like that – and guess what?

In the paper, he pointed to France and Japan as examples… and encouraged other countries to follow their lead.

I fully accept the semantic difference between trusted computing (as per the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance) and trustworthy computing (as used by Microsoft). But I am not at all confident that the two are ultimately separate. So I implore you: whenever you hear the phrase ‘trusted computing’ or ‘trustworthy computing’ you start distrusting the speaker. There is a place for the trusted computing paradigm, but it most certainly is not on privately owned home or personal business computers. And allowing its use to enable or disable use of the internet would be a very, very dangerous step for personal liberty.

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