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The Danger of Technology Monocultures

* CyberInsecurity: The Cost of Monopoly. How the Dominance of Microsoft’s Products Pose a Risk to Security. Note: the original PDF on the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) web site is no where to be found. Originally at http://www.ccianet.org/papers/cybersecurity.pdf.
An explosive paper arguing Microsoft’s desktop monopoly is a critical weakness in global infrastructure. The paper prompted the firing of one of the authors Dan Geer from @Stake (later acquired by Symantec) in 2003.
* Monoculture on the Back of the Envelope
A short piece by Dan Geer from USENIX’s ;login magazine two years later.
* Schneier-Ranum Face-Off on the dangers of a software monoculture
In 2010, Bruce Schneier and Marcus Ranum debate the issue. Note that a login is necessary to access the piece.
* Bruce Schneier’s blog entry on “Software Monoculture”
Bruce Schneier illustrates some of the weaknesses in the “monoculture is insecurity” argument. First, even seemingly identical computer hosts have some diversity in terms of networks, software, and so on. Second, there are significant costs to diversity. Verisign diversified its infrastructure with three operating systems, including FreeBSD, and they incur significant costs in doing so. Finally, diversity does not mean two’s and three’s of each, but hundreds or thousands to robustly mitigate system-wide disasters.
* Risks of Monoculture Revisited
After the followup debate, the Microsoft Principal Cybersecurity Strategist concludes that monocultures aren’t really that bad after all. Desktop diversity seems to have established with the advent of Android and Ubuntu, and the expansion of Apple products, so the relevance of the Windows desktop monoculture may have decreased.

About Bananas

* Bananas: We have no bananas today
The lack of diversity in cultivated bananas remains the best non-technical example of precarious monocultures

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last updated: Wed Sep 14 18:51:22 2016 UTC