Reinventing the computer to protect your cyber security

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A Malaysian professional writes her password to enter Facebook for social networking in Kuala Lumpur on October 31, 2010.

In Silicon Valley terms, Mat Honan is a well-connected guy up on the latest technology. He's a senior writer for and no slouch when it comes to passwords and protecting his digital life. At least that's what he thought.

This summer, Honan fell victim to a much-hyped hack. Inside of an hour, thieves were able to wipe his phone, tablet, and computer of information and take control of his Google, iCloud, and Amazon accounts. And they were even tweeting messages to his Twitter followers. Even with his Silicon Valley connections, it took him weeks and a good chunk of change to recover data the crooks erased.

The whole event sent Honan on an investigation into the state of password security. Turns out, it's not so hot. Even an "un-guessable" password made up of gibberish and a ridiculously long mix of characters and numbers is not that tough to crack for today's hackers. So what are we to do?

Peter Neumann, principal scientist at SRI International, started trying to warn people about cyber-security long before "cyber-security" was even a word. This is part of the reason why he and his team at SRI International are trying to redesign the computer. They wanted to start with a clean slate and rethink security from the ground up. His most recent project was commissioned by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of its "Cyber Resilience" effort.

The New York Times says the project has, "essentially [created] software that constantly shape-shifts to elude would-be attackers." Now that they've come up with a prototype, how are they going to get the rest of the world to buy into this new way of thinking and designing what we've all become so accustomed to?

Honan and Neumann joined The Daily Circuit Thursday, Dec. 27 to talk about cyber security and the future of the computer.

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