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Edition : 3141 Monday 22-Aug-1994 Circulation : 5796

VNS COMPUTER NEWS ................................. 231 Lines
VNS TECHNOLOGY WATCH .............................. 38 "

VNS TECHNOLOGY WATCH: [W. Stuart Crippen, VNS Correspondent]
===================== [Acton, MA, USA ]

An immune system for computer viruses

From Science News, July 23,1994, Vol. 146, No. 4, Pg 63
Author - Richard Lipkin
Trying to mimic the human body's ability to fight off infection, computer scientists are developing immunologically inspired systems to ward off computer viruses.

Jeffrey O. Kephart of IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., reports designing an immune system for computers that "takes much of its inspiration from nature." As in vertebrates, the new system develops and stores "antibodies," enabling a computer to stop computer virus attacks more quickly.

"We are also careful to minimize the risk of autoimmune response," he says, "in which the immune system mistakenly identifies legitimate software as being undesirable."

The new immunity program detects known viruses by their computer-code sequences and unknown viruses by their unusual behavior within the computer. Decoy programs then seek out and trap the viruses. Then the computer extracts the malevolent coding, turns on a repair program to fix damaged software, and "immunizes" itself against similar viruses.

To forestall an epidemic - a virus spreading through a group of linked computers - infected machines send out "kill signals" to warn other computers of the rampant invader. The signals tell how to kill the new virus as well as similar ones.

The rate at which new viruses are created and the cost to businesses of virus damage have grown, Kephart says. More than 2,000 known viruses exist, and, on average, two or three new ones emerge each day. Of more than 100 million personal computer users worldwide, roughly 1 million, he estimates, have had their work affected by viruses. "This technology will gradually be incorporated into IBM's commercial antivirus product during the next year or two," Kephart says.


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