Is Isolation Bad?

Organizations want to provide safe access to the internet so workers can do their jobs without compromising their endpoints or networks. Like the invincible Iron Man, they protect their users wherever they go, with layers of security products. Iron Man is always protected when he is wearing his armored suit. Unlike Iron Man’s suit, endpoint and network security products aren’t perfect. Rather than building a better suit of armor, some innovative organizations isolate their users from threats. Is isolation a good idea?

What comes to mind when you hear the word isolation? Geographic separation, solitary confinement, the boy in the bubble (immunodeficiency disease), Galvanic isolation (electricity), feral child (language deprivation), quarantine, submarine?

Isolation from dangerous electricity and deep-sea conditions saves lives. Lead-lined rooms provide emission security to isolate computers from spying. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and Pharaoh Psamtik conducted isolation experiments on children to discover the origin of language. The result of these unethical experiments? The children deprived of exposure to language couldn’t speak any language.

From history, we have learned that isolation isn’t a new idea and like technology, humans can put it to good and bad use.

Is there a better choice?

Personal protective equipment (PPE), like Iron Man’s suit, comes to mind as a better alternative to isolation. From hazmat suits to surgical gloves to suits of armor, humans create innovative ways to protect themselves. As with cybersecurity products, there always seems to be yet another product to layer on for more protection. Let’s see which works best, PPE or isolation, by exploring a brief history of technology development for deep-sea exploration.

Humans push their limits to work underwater because naval warfare, building bridges, and retrieving shipwrecks all eventually exceed human limits for pressure, temperature, and oxygen. Humans can dive 20 meters in temperate conditions without equipment. From that starting point, we increase the limits through a series of technology innovations for PPE.

    • 1535 Guglielmo de Lorena uses a diving bell to explore Caligula’s barges in Lake Nemi, Italy.
    • 1710 John Lethbridge builds a completely enclosed suit to aid in salvage work.
    • 1820 Charles and John Deane produce the first successful diving helmets.
    • 1932 Joseph Salim Peress invents the first truly usable atmospheric diving suit, the Tritonia, with joints proving resistant to pressure and moving freely even at depth.
    • 1943 Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Émile Gagnan develop Aqua-Lung, the first successful SCUBA, which eliminates the need to provide a constant supply of air pumped from the surface.
    • 1957 Eduard Admetlla i Lázaro descends to a record depth of 100 meters with SCUBA.
    • 1969 Mike Humphrey and Mike Borrow invent the JIM suit, designed to maintain an interior pressure of one atmosphere despite exterior pressures, eliminating the majority of physiological dangers associated with deep diving, including nitrogen narcosis or decompression sickness (the ‘bends’).
    • 2014 Ahmed Gabr dives a record 332 meters.

What are the limits to PPE?

The JIM suit, impressive as it is, has limits for underwater work. Humans want to diver deeper and work longer with more powerful tools. The Titanic rests 3,800 meters below sea level, beyond the range of the JIM. The Deep Water Horizon oil spill disaster illustrates other challenges. Scientists discovered the underwater oil plume at a depth of 100 meters and more than 22 miles in length. While within depth range, the scope of exploration is beyond the 5-hour dive time. If divers could operate industrial tools at depth, they could seal the leak with superhuman strength. Now that we understand the limits of a PPE strategy, is there a viable alternative?

Why Isolation?

We no longer need to put people in harm’s way. Rather than send down a diver or a submarine, the industry has moved to Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV). ROVs enable the human operator to work in a safe office environment while a tethered underwater mobile device with robotic arms works 24×7 at any depth. That’s right. The ROV isolates the diver from dangerous deep-sea environments. Humans are no longer at risk from power failures, suit leaks or loss of air supply. ROVs are smaller and more maneuverable than submarines, and they don’t confine the crew to ship 24×7 for 90 days.

It’s safe to conclude that isolation is a good idea. Instead of suiting up and diving in harm’s way, send your ROV. You can see and do everything in deep-sea conditions from the comfort of your desk. The same is true for the web. Use Isla for remote browser isolation and experience a safer internet without compromise.

John Klassen

Sr. Director - Product Marketing