Scientists have worked out a new way to defend computers from cyber attackers – by studying ants. Watching how they behaved when a colony was under threat, gave programmers inspiration for a new weapon against infections known as worms and viruses.
Ants use “swarming intelligence” to deter intruders. When one ant detects a threat, he is soon joined by many others to overwhelm their opponent.
Now the strategy is being incorporated into security software under test by a team at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, US.
The “digital ants” will wander through computer networks looking for invaders. When an ant detects one, it calls for an army of reinforcements to join the fight.
Researchers believe the new ant-based system will run faster than conventional security programs which have to be updated constantly to recognise new infections.
Professor of computer science Errin Fulp (correct) said: “In nature, we know that ants defend against threats very successfully. They can ramp up their defence rapidly, and then resume routine behaviour quickly after an intruder has been stopped. We were trying to achieve that same framework in a computer system.”
The team believe that the new ant-based system will run faster than conventional security programs which have to be updated constantly to recognise new infections.
Researcher Glenn Fink added: “Our idea is to deploy 3,000 different types of digital ants, each looking for evidence of a threat. As they move about the network, they leave digital trails modelled after the scent trails ants in nature use to guide other ants.
“Each time a digital ant identifies some evidence, it is programmed to leave behind a stronger scent. Stronger scent trails attract more ants, producing the swarm that marks a potential computer infection.”