Dr. Glenn Fink, Senior Research Scientist at PNNL believes Nature provides examples of how we can protect computers by using collective intelligence. To help defend his position, Dr. Fink enlisted Dr. Errin Fulp, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Wake Forest University, specifically because of Dr. Fulp’s ground-breaking work with parallel processing. Together, the two researchers developed software capable of running multiple security scans contiguously, with each scan targeting a different threat. A technique it seems, Dr. Fink acquired from studying behavior exhibited by ant colonies.
Security consultant Michael Kassner describes the Digital Ant project based on a Wake Forest University article “Ants vs. Worms” and an interview with Dr. Fulp. Foraging ants lay down pheromone trails. Simple rules followed by other ants results in the ant colony collectively finding the shortest path to food sources. Similarly, a large number of different kinds of software agents search for signs of malware. Their collective action allows human operators to more quickly identify new threats.
The Digital Ant system appears to rely on a hierarchical structure of Sentinels, Sergeants and human supervisors. This is different from real ants or the REGEN power controllers (see December 2007 Newsletter) where the agents themselves can collectively take action.
For additional information on ant swarm behaviour, see Effectiveness of Emerged Communication in an Ant Foraging Model and A Pheromone -Based Utility Model for Collaborative Foraging for additional information.