The issue of security is linked to trust: you have to be able to trust the other users and the project. As with grid and cloud computing, there is a degree of trust with volunteer computing, and there are mechanisms to deal with breach of trust.
When you volunteer you must be able to trust a project in several ways:
- The volunteer trusts the project to provide applications that do not damage their computer or invade their privacy.
- The volunteer trusts that the project is truthful about what work is being done by its applications, and how the resulting intellectual property will be used.
- The volunteer trusts the project to follow proper security practices, so that hackers cannot use the project as a vehicle for malicious activities.
Safeguarding your computer
Volunteer computing does pose some security challenges. New security solutions are constantly being developed, including sophisticated data encryption techniques. However, it is a never-ending race to stay ahead of malicious hackers and malware creators.
Most volunteer projects safeguard against this by eliminating obvious risks. BOINC, for example, uses measures such as code signing, so that even if hackers break into a project's server they can't use it to distribute malware.