Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) researcher Glenn Fink is working with Wake Forest University professor Errin Fulp to develop a computer security program that models itself after the defensive techniques of ants. The new anti-malware system uses itinerant digital ants to find problems in a large network. When an ant comes across something suspicious, it leaves behind a “scent trail” that draws an army of ants to the problem. The large group attracts the attention of computer users to a possible invasion. “Our idea is to deploy 3,000 different types of digital ants, each looking for evidence of a threat,” Fulp says. Rather than equipping all digital ants with the same memory-heavy defenses, the program apportions certain threats to specific digital ants. The digital ants report to a “sentinel” located at each computer, which in turn is supervised by a “sergeant” of the network. All sergeants are monitored and controlled by human users. To test the program, the researchers sent a computer worm into the system and the digital ants were able to corner the worm. PNNL has given the researchers more time to study the program. If successful, the researchers say the program would be ideal for universities, government agencies, and corporations that rely on large networks.
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