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Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Hogwarts Security

The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling provide some excellent illustrations of some important issues in relation to Identity, Trust and Security. Here are some of the issues I had identified from the first four books.
A recent discussion on Bruce Schneier's blog (September 2005) has identified a number of further issues arising from books 5 and 6.
  • The danger of trusting your friends since they may be covertly controlled by your enemies (the Imperius curse)
  • The vulnerability of certain defences against coordinated attack by several (possibly weaker) opponents. This is already indicated in Book 4, in which Mad-Eye Moody, the most security-conscious wizard in the entire series, is overpowered by Barty Crouch and Wormtail.
  • Brent Dax suggests that the Fidelius Charm is a version of DRM.
Elsewhere, I have used the concept of Marauder's Map to describe the network models constructed by hostile attackers.

The Harry Potter books can be read as a satire on technology. From this perspective, the following criticisms of J.K. Rowling are grossly unfair.
  • Should Rowling be sued for teaching poor security systems to the children!?
  • Logic and consistency are not Ms Rowling's strong point.
But Rowling is describing an imaginary world in which there are many security vulnerabilities. (Some of these vulnerabilities have not been exploited yet, but there is another book to come.) Surely this is better than teaching children that magic (or for that matter technology) can provide perfect security.

[updated to add]
As Laurabelle writes in her blog, "Sometimes magic just isn’t the best tool for the job."

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