It may not have the charitable underpinnings of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, but Ivan Kristic couldn’t have asked for a better follow-up job than at Apple. Cupertino just snatched up Kristic following his time at OLPC, where he was the architect behind the Bitfrost security specification. He wrote about his new job in a post on his personal blog Monday, and began work at Apple on the same day.
Bitfrost was responsible for password protection, prevention of data loss, hard drive encryption and security updates for the OLPC, which, while not a specific target for hackers, did take an innovative approach to security that Apple could be very interested in learning more about. Somewhat like Google’s Chrome browser, Bitfrost runs every active program on a computer in its own virtual OS instance. As a result, a virus or malware in one program can’t hop to another, or infect the computer’s core files and spy on sensitive data.
The new hire could mean that Apple is looking for ways to safeguard its reputation for better security not just now, but in the future, too. Recent advertising efforts show that it considers its lack of security issues one of its primary selling points. At the same time, Apple must be aware that if its user base continues to grow, hackers will become more and more likely to target OS X vulnerabilities, and that reputation could quickly evaporate.
An innovative, compartmentalized approach to security like the one used by Bitfrost could go a long way to making sure Apple is perceived as a security leader even if user numbers shift in their favor. Don’t expect new measures to be implemented anytime soon, though. Kristic is probably coming on board now in order to work on solutions that will be implemented in whatever OS installment takes shape after Snow Leopard, which is probably at least another couple years off.