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Written by Daniel   
Tuesday, 10 October 2006 11:54
Low-Cost PCs Pose Risk
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OCTOBER 9, 2006 | In the first half of 2007, a new laptop will be on the market. Priced at about $100, it will work very differently from today's laptops, but it will ship in the millions, right out of the chute. It will also pose some interesting security problems -- and some interesting solutions.

You can't buy them for your business -- or even your home. Because the new machines are being developed exclusively for sale to children in developing countries under the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

The OLPC, a technology initiative originally founded at MIT and now backed by companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, Google, Nortel, and Red Hat, is planning to sell the devices in batches of 1 million units or more to foreign governments across the world. Argentina, Brazil, Thailand, and Nigeria already have expressed interest in buying the machines when they are manufactured in large quantities at the beginning of 2007.

So far, OLPC technicians have cracked the hardware problem, using low-cost AMD processors and giving the machine only limited storage capabilities. They've solved the software problem, building on Linux as the operating system. They've handled the communications problem with wireless technology that lets the machines communicate via an ad hoc, no-cost network.

Now if they can just nail down that pesky security problem.

Ivan Kristic, one of OLPC's software architects, thinks he's got the OLPC security problem solved, but he attracted some attention last week when he asked the hackers at the annual Toorcon conference to help him hack the kids' machines.

"I've publicly posted the specifications, and now what I want is for some people to beat up on them," Kristic said in a phone interview on Friday. "We're creating a new, unknown environment, and we have to throw out our old ways of figuring out what's vulnerable," he said. "I'm hoping [hackers] will find things I haven't thought of yet."....More

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