Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Ants Vs. Worms: New Computer Security Mimics Nature

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 Wake Forest 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.

As new variations are discovered and updates issued, security programs gobble more resources, antivirus scans take longer and machines run slower — a familiar problem for most computer users.

Glenn Fink, a research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., came up with the idea of copying ant behavior. PNNL, one of 10 Department of Energy laboratories, conducts cutting-edge research in cyber security.

Fink was familiar with Fulp’s expertise developing faster scans using parallel processing — dividing computer data into batches like lines of shoppers going through grocery store checkouts, where each lane is focused on certain threats. He invited Fulp and Wake Forest graduate students Wes Featherstun and Brian Williams to join a project there this summer that tested digital ants on a network of 64 computers.

Swarm intelligence, the approach developed by PNNL and Wake Forest, divides up the process of searching for specific threats.

“Our idea is to deploy 3,000 different types of digital ants, each looking for evidence of a threat,” Fulp says. “As they move about the network, they leave digital trails modeled after the scent trails ants in nature use to guide other ants. Each time a digital ant identifies some evidence, it is programmed to leave behind a stronger scent. Stronger scent trails attract more ants, producing the swarm that marks a potential computer infection.”

In the study this summer, Fulp introduced a worm into the network, and the digital ants successfully found it. PNNL has extended the project this semester, and Featherstun and Williams plan to incorporate the research into their master’s theses.

Fulp says the new security approach is best suited for large networks that share many identical machines, such as those found in governments, large corporations and universities.

Computer users need not worry that a swarm of digital ants will decide to take up residence in their machine by mistake. Digital ants cannot survive without software “sentinels” located at each machine, which in turn report to network “sergeants” monitored by humans, who supervise the colony and maintain ultimate control.

Eric F. Frazier | Newswise Science News
Further information:

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>