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Study: Computers can 'evolve' for defense

Feb. 14, 2012 at 5:39 PM   |   Comments

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Feb. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say findings from genetics research are inspiring them in their search for ways to combat increasing number of global cyberattacks.

Scientists at Wake Forest University say they've used a genetically inspired algorithm to fight continual evolution of viruses, worms and malware with computer evolution, developing the first-ever automated computer configurations that adjust as quickly as the threats.

The algorithm proactively discovers more secure computer configurations by leveraging the genetic concept of "survival of the fittest" in a computer network, a Wake Forest release said Tuesday.

"Typically, administrators configure hundreds and sometimes thousands of machines the same way, meaning a virus that infects one could affect any computer on the same network," researcher Michael Crouse said.

"If successful, automating the ability to ward off attacks could play a crucial role in protecting highly sensitive data within large organizations."

Cyberattacks usually take place in two phases, the researchers said. In the reconnaissance phase, a virus simply observes, identifies possible defense mechanisms and looks for the best way in.

If nothing has changed since the reconnaissance phase upon the virus's return, it strikes, but even the slightest change in environment -- accomplished automatically by the algorithm -- can make a huge difference in deterring potential attackers, they said.

"If we can automatically change the landscape by adding the technological equivalent of security cameras or additional lighting, the resulting uncertainty will lower the risk of attack," researcher Errin Fulp said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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