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Bruce Schneier, Marcus Ranum debate home users and security

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Forcing ISPs to support home users, or re-engineering computers to be simple enough for us old coots to understand, completely misses the point. At the point where enough customers want simple-to-use Internet terminals, a market will develop. Arguably, it already has--witness the evolution of handheld PDAs and centralized "no spam" managed free email services. The complexity of the Internet and software administration is getting absorbed into the IT infrastructure of Google, Yahoo and MySpace.

I'm not demanding that Detroit make cars that are simple enough for me to repair; I choose to buy vehicles that are usually reliable, and I outsource the repair work to the mechanic up the street. Perhaps what we're doing is shifting complexity around in our lives: I never learned how to fix a transmission, but I can still scratch-bake a firewall with a custom filtering reverse Web proxy in a weekend. I've seen home users who can't manage a Windows XP upgrade, but who can successfully instrument-land a jet fighter.

Bruce, when you and I are old coots sitting on the porch, you'll be amazed to see the current generation of kids nimbly navigating their way through software and system configurations that completely blow our minds. Relax; it's just what progress looks like from our side of the hill. Will the future be more secure? It'll be just as insecure as it possibly can, while still continuing to function. Just like it is today.


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Coming in November:
Cyberwarfare: myth or reality?

This was first published in September 2007

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