Ex-hacker Eric Taylor, also known as CosmoTheGod, and another infosec name, Bryant Townsend have colorful pasts. Most recently Taylor stole the Social Security and personal records of a number of high-ranking Obama administration officials, posting it on a site called exposed.su. Townsend, for his part, was caught up in a denial of service hack that led back to his former DDoS mitigation company. Now Taylor, Townsend, and CTO Marshal Webb are back to help maintain data centers using decentralized monitoring tools.
The project, called Path, uses a “transparent” piece of software to watch various servers. Users pay for the system with a Path Token. This allows data centers to have a wider understanding of the outside issues effecting their data throughput.
“Our monitoring nodes will have residential IPs which make it virtually impossible for the service to get blocked or cloaked when gathering data. Path’s architecture allows us to expand the service beyond uptime monitoring by incorporating granular data harvesting and analytic tools, something our competitors are unable to do,” said Townsend.
In short, think of it as SETI@Home for server monitoring: small home computers act as watchdogs for bigger ones.
“Path was conceived at the end of 2017, out of the direct requirements of the founder’s prior companies. Staggered by the lack of high-end network monitoring options for ISPs and CDNs, and facing issues with visibility into route propagation, the only answer was to craft a new solution. As work on Path progressed it quickly became apparent that the applications and utility of a distributed network monitoring solution would be great enough to warrant it’s own company [sic],” wrote Bryant.
In this very specific case a token makes relative sense. Users can “mine” the token by managing a monitoring node and server farms pay a small amount for the privilege. Decentralization ensures that most of the tricks played by hackers will be visible. Path will allow sysadmins to see a bigger network picture and will expose censorship, net neutrality policies, and DNS poisoning. It’s a clever solution by some folks who, arguably, know a lot about the wrong side of network security.