P2P Net security depends on the strength of your 'reputation'

By P.J. Connolly, InfoWorld |  Networking

I'm not in love with peering technology, but I can't ignore it either. Although the security hurdles are formidable, I reckon we'll see a number of attempts to add necessary features to peer networking that will make corporate security managers sleep better. Intel is doing some interesting work in this area in conjunction with its membership in the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance. Intel has demonstrated proof-of-concept solutions to encryption and trust in a peering environment, and its "Trutella" hybrid of hardware and Gnutella software may represent the new computing paradigm. Peering definitely needs the credibility that a commodity-trusted system can deliver.

The acceptance of peer technologies in the corporate world hinges on reputation and trust. We already have the beginnings of this with the digital certificate, which can be used to prove a person's identity. The next step will be "digital reputations." Think of them as credit reports, only on a broader scale. This is a mildly uncomfortable thought for someone like me with a small public presence; the odds are that over time I'll tick off some folks enough that they'll want to smear my reputation.

I'm not looking forward to it, but I don't think we''ll have to wait long to see "reputation servers" being as important to the Internet as DNS servers are today. Of course, like DNS servers, a reputation server will present a target for those wishing to attack a business or individual. I'm going to suggest that you read Bruce Sterling's Distractions for a chilling portrait of what America would look like in a future when intellectual property long ago ceased to have value and when your life might depend on what a reputation server said about you.

You'll note that I haven't said anything about peering being a jim-dandy way to spread viruses; it is, but that's outside this column's scope. People like to take candy from strangers, it seems, and they deserve the consequences of doing so.

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