Good mobs vs. bad mobs

Can smart mobs of "good guys" beat smart mobs of "bad guys?"

Neuromancer image
It reads like science fiction, but it asks a key cyberpunk' question. (Sorry, the movie's still not out.)

The answer will determine the future course for both open source and the Internet.

Can smart mobs of "good guys" beat smart mobs of "bad guys?"

As Justin Fielding describes it at TechRepublic, a nest of exploits are appearing on infected Web sites, stealing from users without any apparent symptoms.

ScanSafe says site hosts are being infected by a rootkit placed in the hosts' kernels. Most of the infected sites are running Apache and some version of Linux. The targeted victims run Windows PCs.

This is a nasty attack from a sophisticated source. What's most interesting, to me, is how many Web sites have used their discussion threads to create a "good guy" mob to go after it.

Once the alert was sounded last week a discussion thread quickly assembled, filled with both experts and non-experts. It became apparent this is related to a worm which first appeared in November, described at Ars Technica.

The links given above, however, are just the tip of a larger iceberg. Probably 90% of the discussion is hidden from public view, and some of the best security minds in the world are now trying to add the solution to their corporate scalp collection.

That cure may go first to customers, but once tested and installed it will be disseminated throughout the community at large. This is in the best interest of the vendors.

Beyond this, you can bet police agencies around the world have more experts working to isolate the person or persons behind the attack, physically disabling both them and their networks.

The point is it's all of a piece -- the ordinary users finding the trouble, journalists raising the alarm, amateurs and pros both bending their brains to a solution, whether for financial gain, psychological gain, or the sheer joy of doing good.

This is the process I'm relying on to protect the 21st century, a smart mob in which all kinds of people have a role to play, where we don't just call the cops and sit on our hands.

Active security may look like anarchy to some, but it's structured and, I believe, highly effective. More effective than the mobs of criminals, geeks and the curious working the other side of the legal street.