Reliable communication on the Internet is guaranteed by a standard set of protocols, used by all computers. But these protocols can be exploited to compute with the communication infrastructure, transforming the Internet into a distributed computer in which servers unwillingly perform computation on behalf of a remote node. In this model, called ‘parasitic computing’, one machine forces target computers to solve a piece of a complex computational problem merely by engaging them in standard communication. Consequently, the target computers are unaware that they have performed computation for the benefit of a commanding node. As experimental evidence of the principle of parasitic computing, we harness the power of several web servers across the globe, which unknown to them work together to solve an NP complete problem. This briefing focuses upon how it is implemented and the ethical issues related with parasitic computing.
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