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Biological Evolution Gives Cues to Stronger Computer Software


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Computer scientists at the universities of Virginia and New Mexico recently received a $3.2 million U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant to develop more resilient software systems based on the biological concepts of immunity and evolution, with the goal of stopping cyberattacks. The researchers say the technology could have applications in a wide range of products, including laptops, cell phones, anti-lock brakes, and artificial-heart pumps. "In biological systems, the skin and the immune system work together to fight off threats, and diverse populations mean that not every individual is vulnerable to the same disease," says Virginia professor Westley Weimer.

The researchers are using genetic programming techniques to develop software that can defend against attacks and self-repair, and then pass those traits onto later generations of the software. The researchers want to ensure that the software can automatically diversify programs, which will improve resiliency. "With millions of people using the same programs, it's also easier for a single virus or invader to find just one attack surface and destroy everything," Weimer says.

The researchers also want to develop adaptable software that can learn to fend off attacks that come with the creation of new programs. The software also will use a distributed, decentralized search technique based on the behavior of ants, says New Mexico professor Melanie Moses.

From The University of Virginia
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