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Security Implications of the Humble Computer Clock

March 5th, 2009

You can be late to an important meeting if miss to change clock to Daylight Savings Time or just setup your clock wrong (10 minutes). Fuzzy logic of human brains can manage time miscalculation and minimize damage. But what about silicon brains. What can computer do in this situation. What implication it can have to our security.

Is the clock on every computer system in your organization set to the correct time? If your answer is no, you’re not alone. According to a 2007 study by Florian Buchholz and Brett Tjaden, both professors at James Madison University in Virginia, more than a quarter of the Web servers on the Internet have their clocks off by more than 10 seconds. Making sure that computers are set with the correct time is one of those seemingly petty technical things that can unfortunately have big, negative consequences if not done properly. That’s because assumptions about time and its flow permeate modern computer systems-including software, hardware and networking. This is true of desktop systems, servers, mobile devices and even embedded systems like HVAC, alarm systems and electronic doorknobs.

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