The End Node Problem

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with someone about being a node [1], and I happened to come across a brief explanation of what is known in network security as the “end node problem.” In computer networks, one of the main issues faced in security is keeping privileged information in and keeping corrupt information and unsavory characters out. This problem applies to many areas of life, and an end node is a non-privileged computer or person in a network that nevertheless has connections with the outside that allow outside influence in the network or allow insider information to leave the network. This is a classic inside-outside problem, in that an end node is not supposed to be a node at all, and it is being a node, when it does not have the trust of those in charge of the network, or the full resources to handle the task of being a node effectively, that causes problems for the node as well as for the network as a whole.

There are many aspects of life in which being an end node is a problem. In computers, of course, end nodes are responsible for the vulnerability of cloud-based computing. In intelligence networks, end nodes are often considered moles, plans which pass along information to rival countries. Even in networks where one would not think there was much in the way of insider politics, an end node can easily be found, and in life, I have often found myself to be an end node, largely by accident. Without necessarily being a person of great privilege and power, being friendly and in the right place at the wrong time and being unusually fond of trying to solve mysteries and put clues together and being unable to keep my mouth shut or my keyboard quiet has made me a node without anyone necessarily wanting me to be one. Being outgoing and friendly would have made me a node at any rate, though, simply by being me.

In my life, the way that others have responded to my being a node has not always been enjoyable. It has led to a fair amount of unwelcome commentary, a great deal of unfortunate repercussions. This is not an uncommon experience. Yet most of the research on networking demonstrates that it is not the nodes themselves that are generally at fault for their state. Rather, they are vulnerable as a result of a lack of resources and attention, and subject to a great deal of interference. As a result, most of the focus on end node problems relates to overall system issues dealing with security and protocols as well as external threats to that system. Given the desire of technology firms (including some I am quite familiar with) to utilize the power of the cloud, solving the end node problem is of considerable importance, as it would be impossible to envision secure cloud computing otherwise.

There are basically two sorts of solutions for security in the cloud. One of them is to implement highly restrictive rules for the use of in-network benefits, making the inside of the network increasingly fortress-like, and greatly harming the experience for those who are not privileged users. In many ways, this sort of solution only makes attacks more dangerous, as there is a sense of false security as well as issues when it comes to having a mistrust of those who should be insiders while leaving walls as the main defense against external threats. The alternative solution is to focus on having an impenetrable citadel, easier to maintain than a larger fortress, and to give a wide deal of trust to everyone in the network while requiring a tight control of kernel software. This solution works well in analogy as well, in that it is a high trust solution that focuses on core issues and gives wide trust and acceptance. Surely, that ought to be preferred than ever more narrow exclusivity that only serves to alienate others and give elites too much power and a false sense of security while making life hard on everyone else. If one must be a node, at least let us be nodes that are respected and trusted.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The End Node Problem

  1. Pingback: On My Way To Your Apartment I Write For Fear Of Silence | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Stop Making Sense | Edge Induced Cohesion

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