[ExI] Could an unhackable kernal keep all computers safe from cyberattack?

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Wed Sep 23 11:48:40 UTC 2015

On 2015-09-23 13:30, Dave Sill wrote:
> On Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 5:19 AM, John Grigg 
> <possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com <mailto:possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     "The kernel is the central core of any computer’s operating
>     system. If hackers gain access to it, they can perform actions
>     that are meant to be forbidden – like turning a mobile phone into
>     a signal jammer, for example. Last year, Heiser’s team proved
>     mathematically <http://sel4.systems/Info/FAQ/proof.pml> that their
>     kernel is unhackable.
> A provably secure kernel is great, but alone it's not enough to ensure 
> that an entire system is secure. E.g., if I leave my "unhackable" 
> system accessible to the world and have a privileged account called 
> "root" with the password "root", the kernel isn't going to save me.

This is what distinguishes real security experts like Bruce Schneier 
from the snake-oil salesmen. The salesmen tell you that if you get their 
gadget you will be secure, while the real experts tell you that it is a 
component in a comprehensive security process.

Still, starting from a secure kernel and carefully building upwards 
sounds like a far more viable approach than trying to patch the current 
mess. Expensive and slow, yes. But this is what I would prefer for 
important systems (I am currently writing about the security of brain 
implants... oh dear).

Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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