Contours of Privilege

We consider the landscape of authentication and authorization we desire when everything we own is computerized.

My ssh credentials and configuration allows me to move freely between servers I administer. This hints as what we might desire within Ambient Computing.

I have numerous small computer boards and old laptops connected on my household network. I interact with them through small application servers I have designed or more cautiously through remote shell command.

A recent experiment has allowed me Shell Privilege within wiki. I am eager to distribute this throughout my network so that routine but infrequent tasks like adjusting decorative lighting or adding new sensors can be cataloged within my collection of pages.

Computers are part of the landscape where I live.

I wouldn't want to have to login to set the coffee timer as I do every morning without even looking up. Hello Echo. I'm privileged to set timers by being within earshot. With this comes some responsibility to not interfere with timers my wife has set.

Echo is at the base level in my landscape.

My service to the web is a small step up. I Check the Weather in my backyard each day as could anyone else. But they would be coming from someplace. I log them and could block them. This is weak identity but more than Echo has when it responds to party chatter or even television commercials.

From verbal instruction to web interface to basic auth to ssh credentials to vpn to the data center to sudo there. I am climbing a hill, asserting more privilege, accepting more responsibility. With each escalation I penetrate some system's defense in depth.

Wiki could take a leadership role in refining this landscape. I say that wiki a place to do work not just talk about work. We have to ask, what do we want work to be like?

We've seen issues like CORS and SSH/TLS as stumbling blocks to be overcome. This suggests to me that our industry hasn't come close to a sufficiently nuanced model of privilege. Worse still cyber fears and corporate monopoly could lead us in the wrong direction.