Microsoft's corporate vice president for trustworthy computing has been expanding on the company's plan to quarantine infected PCs from full internet access.
Scott Charney put forward the plan in a security white paper last year, but used his keynote at the RSA Conference to explain how the idea is being developed to mimic public healthcare systems.
Many people now insist that internet access is a basic human right, and a public education campaign is needed to get people to be safer online, according to Charney.
"As an industry we've moved from individual systems defence, to collective defence and now we're looking at active defence, where we can start dropping packets higher in the stack," he said.
"Collective defence is better than individual defence, but we need to be applying public health models to the internet."
Poorly secured PCs are akin to the cigarette debate going on in much of the world. Smoking used to be considered a personal decision based on the individual's attitude to risk, Charney said.
However, once the dangers of second-hand smoke were understood, public heath rules applied because the common good was threatened. The same is true for the internet.
Microsoft's model includes plans for health certificates for computers trying to get online which gauge the security of a system and limit internet access if the machine is infected with malware.
Precautions would have to be put in place to ensure that certificates could not be spoofed, but the basic idea would give everyone a lot more security online, Charney believes.
Meanwhile, governments would have to co-operate more to stop online criminals making money. National laws need to be harmonised to eliminate cross-border crime, and similar rules need to be enacted to stop economic espionage over the internet, although such rules would not affect state action online.
"Military espionage is a serious problem, but I suggest that we as an industry get over it. Espionage has existed for thousands of years and it's never going to stop, although the internet has made it easier," Charney said.
Governments also need to sort out how they reply to online attacks. The appropriateness of taking physical action in retaliation for a hacking attack is still undecided.
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