-- Biologically inspired solution leads to novel security protocol
10 July 2002 -- BTexact Technologies, BT's advanced research and technology business, has announced a new adaptive approach to network defence, inspired by the natural immune system and designed to address the increasingly sensitive issue known to IT security experts as "the disappearing perimeter".
From the beginning of the internet revolution hackers have found and exploited breaches in security systems. On the whole though, today's firewalls have proven good enough to keep in check the odd intrusion attempt and repel all but dedicated and well-prepared assaults.
However, networks are rapidly changing their characteristics. They now include not only static PCs and peripherals, but potentially all sorts of lightweight, plug-and-play or wireless devices. BT believes that companies are particularly vulnerable as these devices can be alternately, or even simultaneously, inside and outside an organisation's firewall, effectively creating many unprotected backdoors to an otherwise secure environment.
The company believes that devices equipped with BTexact's new technology, termed an adaptive network perimeter, will help them by automatically redrawing a system's boundaries in real-time as its topology changes.
Researchers in BTexact's intelligent systems lab were inspired by the dynamic interactions that take place in the inflammatory response of the mammalian immune system. The adaptive network perimeter technique relies on local cross-inhibition between mutually trusting nodes to control their alert level, a variable used to select one of several predefined security stances.
The alert level is highly dynamic and spontaneously builds up in the absence of the appropriate signal. Any opening breach therefore triggers a chain reaction in the contiguous region, resulting in a new defensive layer forming around the compromised area.
The main advantage of this new approach lies in the fact that equipped devices go to high alert by default, unless inhibited by trusted neighbours. This effectively removes the need for any explicit threat notification.
Stewart Davies, CEO of BTexact said: "By looking carefully at how problems are dealt with in the natural world, our technologists have already generated several innovative solutions to complex problems. BTexact's adaptive network perimeter solution is another practical example of what can be achieved by using this unconventional approach."