US security researchers are using "swarming intelligence" found in the insect world as a model to develop new defences against computer worms and viruses.
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Glenn Fink, a research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington came up with the idea.
Fink asked a team of researchers from at Wake Forest University (WFU) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to join the project.
The researchers plan to duplicate the "swarming intelligence" used by ants to deal with intruders in security software.
The software will send thousands of "digital ants" through computer networks to monitor for cybercriminal intrusions such as the conficker worm.
If one detects a problem, it alerts all the others to focus on that part of the network to join the fight and alert system administrators.
"Our idea is to deploy 3,000 different types of digital ants, each looking for evidence of a threat," said Errin Fulp, professor of computer science at WFU.
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 to attract more ants and produce the swarm that marks a potential computer infection," he said.
The new approach to security is best suited for large networks that share many identical machines, such as those found in governments, large corporations and universities, said Fulp.