Hi folks, Eric Bidstrup here.
Last week at RSA, Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie spoke and outlined a proposed vision for “End to End Trust.” Much has and will be written on that, and additional information and discussions can be found at the End to End Trust portal http://www.microsoft.com/endtoendtrust. In many ways, Craig’s talk was very unusual for Microsoft’s presence at RSA in that it wasn’t a big new product announcement, nor was it evangelizing a new technology or platform to innovate upon. Rather, it was a aimed at kicking off a dialogue by describing some of the current challenges and barriers we see to achieving a more trusted and privacy enhanced Internet, and some of our ideas on how both industry and society might be able to start a productive dialog about collaborating toward that end. Make no mistake: this is tough stuff. This needs to be an industry-wide, long-term effort, and it’s about more than just technology. Enabling true End to End Trust will require that we continue to build on technology progress while aligning those innovations more closely with social, economic and political forces.
Along those lines, I wanted to take a few moments and comment on how SDL factors into that broader discussion on trust. Allow me to draw some analogies with some of my prior work…
In the late 1990’s, I was not yet working on computer security but on computer speech recognition and speech synthesis for Microsoft. Having an engineering background, I was (and still am) very interested in the opportunities and possibilities enabled by freeing people from computer keyboards and mice and allowing them to interact with computers in one of the same ways we interact with each other – by voice. Speech recognition was, and still is, largely assessed by a key metric of “what percentage of words spoken by a person did the computer correctly understand?” Nirvana for speech recognition is 100 percent accuracy (defined as “the computer correctly understood all of the words spoken”) with any audio stream (even with a microphone far away from a person in a noisy room) with an unlimited vocabulary (regardless if I am discussing sports using slang or detailed technical terminology) in any spoken language/dialect. State of the art of speech recognition technology today is not 100 percent accurate within the parameters I described, but let’s pretend for a minute that it is – then what? If you start thinking more deeply on this subject, you can quickly see that many other pieces of the puzzle are needed to realize the goal of “allowing people to interact with computers in one of the same ways we interact with each other – by voice. Natural Language Processing and designing an effective Voice User Interface (VUI) are two of the first major challenges encountered when trying to realize the broader vision of enabling people to interact with computers via voice. These are hard problems that I hope to see significant progress on in my lifetime. However, analyzing an audio stream and converting into some format (words or otherwise) is a fundamental requirement necessary for speech recognition. Yet, it’s also insufficient to realize the broader vision.
Some of you reading may be thinking “But wait Eric, this is a security blog so why are you rambling on about your former roles working on speech recognition?” Well, there is an analogy I’m trying to draw. The point I’ve been leading up to is that the SDL plays a similar role in the context of realizing the broader “End to End Trust” vision. Having software that operates securely without exposing systems or data to unnecessary risk is a fundamental requirement in order for people to trust their computers and software. Yet, that alone is insufficient to enable confidence and trust. As Scott Charney noted in the “End to End Trust Paper:”
“There remained, however, other more specific threats not well addressed by SD3 or Defense-in-Depth. For example, spam does not normally exploit vulnerabilities, nor would one turn off mail by default. There is also very little a specific user or enterprise can do to prevent a distributed denial-of service attack from a botnet. As a result, Microsoft started working on threat mitigations for specific issues. With regard to phishing and spam, for example, it engaged in broad consumer education campaigns and worked on developing technological solutions such as phishing filters and SenderID. For both phishing and botnets, Microsoft began working more extensively with law enforcement to identify phishers and botnet herders in an attempt to create deterrent to such activity, even though the deterrent effect is limited by the current environment because it is hard to find offenders, and criminal penalties may be applied without sufficient force.”
In the non-computing world, even if I keep my house, car, and other valuables under lock and key, I still am at risk of being victimized by criminal activity through no fault of my own. However, a broader set of societal constructs help offer improved assurances that if I don’t live careless or recklessly I will largely remain safe and secure. Note I said “improved.” Society is still not perfect; crime still exists and it always will! The online world is no different. The online world has not yet been around quite as long as human society, it too needs help in developing improved assurances – assurances that ensure I will largely remain safe and secure given I don’t live carelessly or recklessly. These assurances can’t be provided by any single vendor. They require collaboration from all of industry, and indeed society. Craig Mundie’s talk aimed to start a dialogue about how to evolve our online society to be a safer place, where devices and software enable people to make more effective trust decisions and take control over whom and what they trust online.
The creation of a more trustworthy Internet will benefit all of society, and an open dialogue among its members is critical component of achieving this. Feel free to go to http://forums.community.microsoft.com/en-US/EndToEndTrust/threads/ and chime in with your thoughts. As Scott Charney noted “”… if we want the internet to reach its full potential, we need a safer, more trusted online environment.”