Fixing browser security with artificial intelligence
Had you told me 30 years ago the first web browser would be the ancestor of most software interfaces, I’d have been skeptical. Of course, that was before most of us had an inkling of what the web would become. Even with that hindsight, it’s staggering how web browsers have become our primary windows into the digital world. Were it not for mobile apps, that domination would be nearly absolute. And many apps use the same scripting languages that create modern websites.
The rise of the cloud and services era cemented the browser’s ubiquity. It doesn’t matter what backend software or operating systems you deploy. At the front, users can fire up any modern browser and interact with those systems. Rather than installing bespoke client software on every device, you simply point users to a URL.
Browsers are the new operating systems – and though fantastic for accessibility, this creates an enormous security headache for people and organizations.
The flaws in our browsers
Historically, browsers represented contained spaces. What happened in the browser stayed in the browser and couldn’t influence the rest of the system. That idea became outdated as browsers evolved to become more versatile and relevant. Yet the spirit lingers: it’s still easy to think of the browser as a contained space, not a highly integrated part of your digital experience.
To clarify, browser technology has not languished: today’s browsers are much more security conscious. But they face two big adversaries: highly motivated criminals and user errors. Browsers are getting better, but the deck is stacked against them.
Returning to the days of dedicated software clients would be one step backwards for security and a gigantic leap backwards for technology. Browsers are universal and agnostic: they provide access to different interfaces such as dynamic websites, 3D (GrabCAD or Online 3D Viewer), and even virtual reality (the WebVR standard). Browsers even fuel modern development – using open languages such as HTML5 and Ruby on Rails, developers can make rapid changes and continual improvements to interfaces.
Regressing to days before the browser…