Contact Info

Rick Wash
404 Wilson Rd #402
402 Communication Arts and Sciences
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824

Cell: (734) 730-1188
Office: (517) 355-2381

A Social Mechanism for Home Computer Security

by: Rick Wash and Jeff MacKie-Mason


Hackers have learned to leverage the enormous number of poorly protected home computers by turning them into a large distributed system (known as a botnet), making home computers an important frontier for security research. They present special problems: owners are unsophisticated, and usage profiles are varied making onesize-fits-all firewall policies ineffective. We propose a social firewall that collects security decisions and both user and usage characteristics, and provides users with personalized information to assist with allow/deny recommendations. To succeed, a social firewall must deal with at least three user behavior issues: why contribute private information? why make effort to provide quality information? and, how to prevent manipulation by adversaries? We sketch an incentive-centered design approach to each problem. We provide an economic model and some analytic results for a solution to the fundamental problem: why contribute? We show that an excludable public goods mechanism can achieve a better outcome than a system without social motivators.


Rick Wash and Jeff MacKie-Mason. “A Social Mechanism for Home Computer Security.” Workshop on Information Systems and Economics (WISE). December 2008.

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