One of my favourite magazines to read is The Economist, for a number of reasons. First, I find the quality of their writing to be exceptional. It is also very global in its coverage, so you don’t fall into the trap of reading current affairs from a consistently North American perspective. I also think it is a great publication if you are looking for a broad spectrum of subject matter – despite the title it is certainly not just about economics. A perfect example of this last point is a recent article that The Economist published regarding the evolution of computer security.
In a nutshell, the article discusses how computing monoculture – literally billions of people using virtually the same code in software applications (say Windows, or Firefox, for example) – makes is easy for hackers to target a huge population of potential victims by exploiting their common platform. By contrast, when we consider how humans fight viruses in nature, genetic diversity allows all of us to be slightly different from each other. This means that “… no bacterium or virus can wipe out an entire population, since some are almost certain to be genetically immune to any given pathogen.”
By applying the same idea of genetic diversity to computer programs – applying subtle changes to each copy of code to make it unique – hackers have a much more difficult time in targeting large numbers of users for their nasty deeds. It is a novel new approach to combatting computer viruses, and one that may prove valuable in the future of computer security.
Have a look at the article, and if you aren’t already a fan of The Economist, try reading it every once in a while. You’ll be glad that you did.