Defense against computer attack described

Jan. 26, 2011 at 7:31 PM
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RALEIGH, N.C., Jan. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've developed a system that can restore the operating system of a computer that has been the target of a cyberattack.

The operating system is the backbone of a computer, and if it is compromised, attackers can take over that computer -- or crash it.

Researchers at North Carolina State University focused on security attacks in which an outside party successfully compromises one computer application such as a Web browser and then uses that application to gain access to the OS, a university release said Wednesday.

"Our goal is to give the OS the ability to survive such attacks," Yan Solihin, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said. "Our approach has three components: attack detection; security fault isolation; and recovery."

The concept, Solihin said, is to take a snapshot of the OS at strategic points in time when it is functioning normally and then, if the OS is attacked, to erase everything that was done since the last "good" snapshot was taken, effectively going back in time to before the OS attack.

Detecting attacks and resetting a system to a safe state is a well-known technique, but this is the first time researchers have developed a system that also incorporates a security fault isolation component.

This mechanism allows the OS to identify the source of the attack and isolate it, to prevent the OS from succumbing to the same attack repeatedly.

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