31 May 2011

University testing digital ants for cyber protection

Researchers at Wake Forest University in North Carolina are currently testing antivirus software to protect against potential cyber attacks.

The "digital ants" are released into a power grid to discover computer viruses throughout the system. That would include protecting applications connected to the supervisory control and data acquisition networks.

Each digital ant searches for evidence of a threat throughout the system, and once discovered, leaves behind a trail or digital scent to guide the other thousands of ants, according to Errin Fulp, professor of computer science at the university.

"When that network connects to a power source, which connects to the smart grid, you have a jumping off point for computer viruses," said Fulp. "A cyber attack can have a real physical result of shutting off power to a city or a nuclear power plant."

Cyber criminals continue to be a serious threat for companies all over the world. According to a report by an internet security company, spammers, in particular, are turning to a new type of threat - shortened URLs. As a result of URL shortening, the amount of spam released in May increased 3 percentage points compared to April.