Embedded Systems  
     Green Mountain  
     September 2005  
      Code Portability  
      Software Architecture  
      Ubiquitous Connectivity  
      Les Approximations Dangereuses  
      Legal Management  
Les Approximations Dangereuses:
      The Sorcerer's Apprentice and other Dangerous Approximations

The myth of the “Sorcerer's Apprentice” can be summarized by the old saw, “Beware what you wish for, your wishes may come true”.

In cyberspace, the intersection of security, privacy, and access continue to create new challenges for corporate security, law enforcement, privacy, and safety. The tradeoffs are many, the implications subtle. The public discourse on these topics has more often than not failed to take into account past experience with similar hazards; ignoring the reasons for pre-Internet limitations on information gathering and behavior. Often, seemingly obvious solutions to problems have subtle hazards and dangers, and have side effects worse than the original disease. The best of intentions can go awry, as in December 2001, when America Online's spam filtering mechanisms waylaid Early Action admissions decisions emailed to applicants by Harvard University.

Surveillance, monitoring, and protection tools often represent the only way in which applications and support networks can be monitored and protected. The technologies and their internal approximations are highly useful, but are often employed with a focus on their strengths, with a lesser degree of attention paid to their limits and robustness.

The side effects vary widely, from inconsequential annoyances to the electronic equivalents of multiple sclerosis, progressive diseases which effectively incapacitate the affected systems. While it is true that the connected world would not and could not exist without these approximations, there are dangers and limits.

Approximations however, are not reality. Understanding the limits of approximations is critical to their safe use. Conclusions beyond the scope or validity of the approximation are dangerous to all parties involved. While active responses to perceived attacks are the most serious concern, even seemingly innocuous defensive measures can have a severe impact on an organization and its customers and partners.

Session Notes (PDF): Black & White Color

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