Greg Jones

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Ethical botnets

If ethical botnets could be created, would you participate? If a million people were to give up a 20 gig partition on their windows, apple or linux pc, what could be achieved? Could the botnet be utilized for research, crime fighting, climate reporting, problem solving? (the list goes on). Would internet users let ethical hackers take control of their volunteered hard drive partition during sleeping or down time hours? How could scientists utilize an ethical botnet, consisting of millions of computers? Could vast projects and very complex problems be resolved collectively, utilizing the ethical botnet? Would it require strict safeguards , encryption, guidelines or even governmental legislation and, or, oversight by a governing body? What would, or could be the incentive for participating in the vast project?

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    Dec 20 2013: It's not a botnet, but Freenet is a distributed data store that's been around for a while. All content on Freenet is encrypted and anonymously distributed among nodes, with the goal of making it censorship resistant. So in a sense, by volunteering a node, you're giving up control of and space on a machine for a "greater good", depending on how you look at it.

    I'm all for the public volunteering their machines for projects, but I don't see how a botnet can solve something that a regular program and p2p network can't. Maybe the difference here is subtle, but I say it's predictability. Software typically has a predictable behavior, while an "ethical botnet" puts your machine at the whim of a human agent. Personally I would be all for volunteering servers to run open-source code that I could review, in order to be a piece in some greater picture. But I would opt to keep the digital embassies off my machine.

    Ethical worms is another interesting concept. Worms that exploit only to patch the exploit, or do some other act that would be beneficial to the victim.
  • Nov 30 2013: I thought companies already sell this service with their excess computing capacity. I think Amazon did this prior to launching their cloud computing environment. I also remember this was how EDS started when it used off peak or excess server time for it's government clients. You really are describing a future world where being linked to each others computer is going to manage our distributive solar power supply. I think from a green point of view you would have a greater opportunity to sell the idea to most of the Asian manufacturers of our computing devices to include a BOTNET partition in each laptop, pc, tablet, and LED or Plasma screen. I would offer that getting your technology into the LED and Plasma screens probably a more reliable option since most signal networking is moving toward the net and this would be an opportunity to lower costs and make more advanced LED and Plasma screens available to the masses and not just the early adopters. It might enable the next generation of display screens that will go everywhere for anywhere street directions for a more walkable city street. to menu postings at street level and the list goes on. The next frontier to add computing capacity is going to be our televisions. It's funny but I was in a 5K run with a Dell employee and a telecom worker 20 years ago and he asked where the future of computers was headed. Gaming was just starting to go online and telecom hadn't created their market. I stated that servers were where computing was headed. More powerful processing. He drew a blank and scoffed because his company was selling Personal computers and the market trend was laptops.
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    Nov 28 2013: In my line of work (3D graphics) it starts to emerge (rendering images over a distributed network / cloud) and already makes my life a lot easier, and thus speeds up my work / progress. So I guess this also applies to other disciplines. It would be great however if this technique can be more open source.

    However, i'm not a network specialist of any kind, but I guess you should be able to 'sign in' to certain projects where you want to participate, and 'pull the plug' and work localy whenever you want.

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    Nov 23 2013: That already exists for a lot of project. Not necessarily giving up some disk space, but CPU power.
    Probably the best known, as Brian below mentioned, is SETI, but there are many others.
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    Nov 21 2013: I would consider this idea as highly valuable and I think it is a matter of when (not if).

    Of course, what is considered to be ethical is something we need to think about, especially if the algorithms are self-learning.
  • Nov 21 2013: Already being done to some extent. See projects like "SETI at home" and "folding at home".
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      Nov 21 2013: Thank you! I can now go to sleep without worrying I'd thought of something that could bring down our infrastructure and now I know I hadn't lol.
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        Nov 21 2013: As you seem to believe that 'strict safeguards, encryption, guidelines or even governmental legislation' would actually work on the Internet, your chances seem high for a good nights rest.
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          Nov 21 2013: My main concern was anonymous hacking such a vast network, imagined it could at least slow down if not temporarily break parts of the internet infrastructure. And that large independent volunteer botnets could actually compete for dominance etc But I see some bright minds at Berkley are a few years ahead of me, and clearly only a very small percentage of internet users have embraced the idea ( at least officially)
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        Nov 21 2013: Your concern is named Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and a daily reality on the Internet already.

        The moment smart hacker would find ways to infiltrate and to hijack those peaceful infrastructure of network computing, they of course could then misuse it for a massive DDoS attack to shut down certain servers on the Internet.

        And as there is no perfectly save computer code possible, the risk of misuse is immanent to IT technology at all times. This is why it is so important not to connect anything to the Internet nowadays...

        A harmless yet funny story I experienced happened at a University department I once worked with. This department got a brand new state of the art hydro-forming press, which rightly became the pride of the professor in charge. 6 month later the police appeared at the University because hackers cracked the firewall of the University network and used the hard-drive of this hydro-forming press to store and stream illegal movie files and did this, as it turned out, without anybody noticing it.

        Of course no legal case was opened against this department, yet nevertheless, the situation was quite embarrassing for them.
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      Nov 28 2013: Hi Lejan,
      I was looking at the boinc project you mentioned, it sounds very interesting, do you have experience with this initiative?
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        Lejan .

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        Nov 29 2013: Yes, every now and then I donate some computing time to one of the projects available and let my computer calculate for it over night. As those algorithms squeeze any bit out of a CPU, the cooling fans turn a bit noisy to quench the heat of the process, at least on my Mac, which is actually the only reason why I don't like to have it running in the background during the day while I am working at my computer.

        If you are interested, just try it out for yourself as you are free to stop participating at any time.

        And in case you like riddles and to participate actively in solving scientific problems, have a look here:
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    Nov 21 2013: I'm not talking about file sharing, I'm talking about remotely controlling millions of volunteers computers to run complex problem solving programs via an os interface built for the purpose(perhaps based on linux)...........literally millions of computers at one time