Should your personal computer be quarantined?

Robert vamosi By Robert Vamosi

A hot topic at last week’s RSA Conference in San Francisco was how to stem the flood of botnet-infected PCs.

The controversial solution posed by a Microsoft security executive? Quarantine them.

In the conference’s keynote address, Scott Charney, Microsoft vice president of trustworthy computing, sought to start a discussion on Internet responsibility by comparing malicious software with second-hand smoke. But his analogy didn’t work for me. (The speech is available as a video dated March 2 from the RSA Conference site.)

Charney argued that, because of medical concerns about the dangers of second-hand smoke, smoking is being banned everywhere. “You have a right to infect and give yourself illness,” he said. “You don’t have the right to infect your neighbor. Computers are the same way.”

But are they? We’ve traditionally thought of security in terms of defense: A sends B spam, and B deflects it by filtering it out. Charney proposes that we become proactive and prevent A from ever sending the spam in the first place, even if it means cutting off A’s access to the Internet.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2010-03-11:

Robert Vamosi

About Robert Vamosi

WS contributing editor Robert Vamosi CISSP, was senior editor of from 1999 to 2008 and winner of the 2005 MAGGIE Award for best regularly featured Web column for consumers. He is the author of When Gadgets Betray Us (Basic Books 2011)