Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


12:22 PM
Jim Rapoza
Jim Rapoza
Connect Directly

Microsoft's PC Quarantine Plan

A plan by Microsoft Security Chief Scott Charney would place infected or unsecured PCs in an Internet isolation ward. And block users from Internet access.

A plan by Microsoft Security Chief Scott Charney would place infected or unsecured PCs in an Internet isolation ward. And block users from Internet access.How might this work? Let's try this potential scenario.

Hello this is your ISP. We regret to inform you that your system has been quarantined and will not be allowed to access the Internet. We have detected that your system may be infected with malware and that you are not running the approved and certified security software to protect your system. Please remove the malware and update your security software (how you can do this without an Internet connection is your problem). Sorry about any important emails, business opportunities, emergency notices and VOIP-based phone calls that you are now missing. Have a nice day.

Could you imagine getting a message like this from your ISP? Well, if Charney's plan goes into effect, your computers could be subject to quarantines and being locked out from Internet access.

At a speech this week, Charney outlined an idea that he called global collective defense.

In this world, computer security problems are treated in the same way that medical professionals treat people with dangerous infectious diseases, namely removing them from contact with other people. Under this idea, if a computer attempts to connect to the Internet and is found to be infected or maybe even just insecure, the ISP should isolate the system until it can be cleaned and locked down.

Now, I have to admit that there's a part of me that actually agrees with a large part of the sentiment here. I once argued that ISPs should have the right to use "good worms" to close the known security holes in user systems. (an idea which I admit is a little crazy)

But in reality there is so much about Charney's concept that is unworkable that I can't in good conscience agree with the plan for PC quarantines.

First off, locking people off the Internet can be a recipe for disaster. What if the person uses VOIP for their home phone and needs to call for assistance? Never mind all of the other scenarios which, while not life threatening, could be fatal to business or employment well-being if a person is locked off of the Internet.

Then there's the whole idea of what warrants a secure system. One could easily imagine a world where certain large commercial security packages are approved while open source and other security solutions are not.

And then there's the whole issue of how non-Windows systems would be treated. I could easily see users who have Linux-based systems running into problems with having systems that their ISP considers to be "certified" secure.

Still, there are some ideas in here that are at least worth discussing. For example, if an ISP can detect that a system has malware and can notify the user, that is a step in the right direction. I could possibly even be in favor of some kind of "safe mode" Internet connection where a person doesn't lose access but is routed into a connection that limits the harm that can be done.

Yes, careless users who can't or won't secure their systems are the main cause of most of our security woes on the Internet. And more definitely needs to be done in areas of education, awareness and notification.

But shutting people off the internet based on some form of automated "safe system" scan is an idea that needs to be quarantined itself.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Ransomware Is Not the Problem
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  6/9/2021
How Can I Test the Security of My Home-Office Employees' Routers?
John Bock, Senior Research Scientist,  6/7/2021
New Ransomware Group Claiming Connection to REvil Gang Surfaces
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  6/10/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Zero Trust doesn't have to break your budget!
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
In CiviCRM before 5.21.3 and 5.22.x through 5.24.x before 5.24.3, users may be able to upload and execute a crafted PHAR archive.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
In CiviCRM before 5.28.1 and CiviCRM ESR before 5.27.5 ESR, the CKEditor configuration form allows CSRF.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
HashiCorp Nomad and Nomad Enterprise up to version 1.0.4 bridge networking mode allows ARP spoofing from other bridged tasks on the same node. Fixed in 0.12.12, 1.0.5, and 1.1.0 RC1.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
An XSS issue was discovered in manage_custom_field_edit_page.php in MantisBT before 2.25.2. Unescaped output of the return parameter allows an attacker to inject code into a hidden input field.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
All versions of package lutils are vulnerable to Prototype Pollution via the main (merge) function.