via Discovery News
Computer scientists and IT engineers are increasingly looking to the human immune system as a model for preventing attacks by cyber-hackers. They hope that in the near future computers will be able to communicate among themselves, recognize threats, and be able to monitor their own health — just like the cells inside our bodies.
“We want the machines to take a more active part in their own protection,” said Bruce McConnell, senior counselor for cyber security at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “We want to use their brains to protect themselves, but always in the context of the policies of the system administrators and owners.”
McConnell is co-author of a new DHS white paper, “Enabling Distributed Security in Cyberspace: Building a Healthy and Resilient Cyber Ecosystem with Automated Collective Action.”
No, it’s not the dawn of Skynet. But it may be a new way of looking at how computers can be protected, and at the broader questions of privacy versus security. McConnell and others point to a marked increase in cyber-threats from organized crime, terrorists, and nation-states looking for key military, financial and other classified intelligence.
The paper imagines a “healthy ecosystem” of computers that collaborate to fight threats, adapt rapidly, and identify and defeat problems. Right now, computers are not very good at catching things that they haven’t seen before, McConnell said. In contrast, the human immune system has evolved to fight intruders that it doesn’t recognize. “It says: “This is not me. Maybe I need to send something down there to take a look at it, and maybe quarantine it.'” McConnell said.