By Eric Frazier
Office of Communications and External Relations
September 21, 2009
In the never-ending battle to protect computer networks from intruders,
security experts are deploying a new defense modeled after one of
nature's hardiest creatures - the ant.
Unlike traditional security devices, which are static, these "digital
ants" wander through computer networks looking for threats, such as
"computer worms" - self-replicating programs designed to steal
information or facilitate unauthorized use of machines. When a digital
ant detects a threat, it doesn't take long for an army of ants to
converge at that location, drawing the attention of human operators who
step in to investigate.
The concept, called "swarm intelligence," promises to transform cyber
security because it adapts readily to changing threats.
"In nature, we know that ants defend against threats very successfully,"
explains Professor of Computer Science Errin Fulp, an expert in security
and computer networks. "They can ramp up their defense rapidly, and then
resume routine behavior quickly after an intruder has been stopped. We
were trying to achieve that same framework in a computer system."
Current security devices are designed to defend against all known
threats at all times, but the bad guys who write malware - software
created for malicious purposes - keep introducing slight variations to
evade computer defenses.
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