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Risk

2/20/2008
07:43 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
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Microsoft Moves To Squash 'Friendly' Worm

Last week, NewScientist ran a story about Microsoft's researching how worms -- really, really effective worms -- could be used to disseminate software patches. Today, Microsoft seems to be backing away from the idea.

Last week, NewScientist ran a story about Microsoft's researching how worms -- really, really effective worms -- could be used to disseminate software patches. Today, Microsoft seems to be backing away from the idea.I'm all for radical research. And who isn't? Some of the greatest ideas probably come from labs where researchers are given the freedom to brainstorm openly and are constantly greenfielding new ideas, or new approaches to old problems. It's how we may wake up one day and read in the paper that the secrets to unlocking nuclear fusion as an energy source have been unraveled.

And maybe there is a place for "friendly worms" that we've yet to think of.

Or, maybe there isn't a place for them at all.

As far as I'm concerned, nothing should run on a PC without the owner's consent, and based upon the research published, that's exactly what Microsoft was working on.

This is an excerpt from the report, with a very hip title: Sampling Strategies for Epidemic-Style Information Dissemination:

We consider epidemic-style information dissemination strategies that leverage the nonuniformity of host distribution over subnets (e.g., IP subnets) to optimize the information spread. Such epidemic-style strategies are based on random sampling of target hosts according to a sampling rule. In this paper, the objective is to optimize the information spread with respect to minimizing the total number of samplings to reach a target fraction of the host population.
What could the use of this research be, other than to offensively disseminate "information" (aka worms) to systems that have refused to apply an update, for whatever reason? Biological epidemics tend to spread through unwilling hosts.

But all is well that ends well. For now, it seems Microsoft has no intent to "productize" the friendly worm:

"This project is basic research, and there are no current plans to incorporate this into Microsoft products," said Milan Vojnovic, a researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge, in a statement e-mailed to InformationWeek.

Let's hope this worm of an idea stays in its hole.

Here is our post from last week.

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