Daily Archives: 26. November 2003

Using Mother Nature to Help Stop the Spread of Computer Viruses

I received the following press release from the NSF news mailing list yesterday. It is a good example of how basic research can be applied to real world problems:

TAKING CUES FROM MOTHER NATURE TO FOIL CYBER ATTACKS

ARLINGTON, Va.-Taking their cues from Mother Nature and biodiversity, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of New Mexico are collaborating on a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported project to study “cyber diversity” for computer systems as a way to fend off malicious viruses, worms and other cyber attacks.

In nature, diseases are most devastating when an infection-causing organism encounters a “monoculture,” a vast swath of genetically similar individuals, each susceptible to the organism’s method of attack. In the same vein, computer viruses and worms exploit the same flaw on every computer running the same software.

“We are looking at computers the way a physician would look at genetically related patients, each susceptible to the same disorder,” said Mike Reiter, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and computer science at Carnegie Mellon and associate director of CyLab, a Carnegie Mellon initiative focused on advancing cybersecurity technology and education. “In a more diverse population, one member may fall victim to a pathogen or disorder, while another might not have the same vulnerability.”

To read this press release in its entirety, click here.