Bio-inspired projects to improve cyber security

y KATIE NEAL (’03) Office of Communications and External Relations
Michael Crouse and Errin Fulp

Michael Crouse (left) and Errin Fulp

Computer science graduate student Michael Crouse (BS ’10, MS ’12) spends just as much time thinking about biology as he does technology these days.

Crouse and his faculty mentor, Associate Professor Errin Fulp, apply biological design principles to develop innovative ways of thinking and address modern-day challenges. When addressing the ever-changing and growing concern of cyber security, nature is their blueprint and biology is their inspiration.

Now they are fighting the continual evolution of viruses, worms and malwarewith evolution. Together, they are developing the first-ever automated computer configurations that adjust as quickly as the threats.

In refining a genetically inspired algorithm that proactively discovers more secure computer configurations, they are leveraging the concept of “survival of the fittest.” Early simulations have shown the increased diversity of each device’s configuration improves overall network safety, without putting undue stress on IT professionals.

“Typically, administrators configure hundreds and sometimes thousands of machines the same way, meaning a virus that infects one could affect any computer on the same network,” says Crouse, who recently was named one of the “nation’s top new inventors” by Inventor’s Digest magazine. “If successful, automating the ability to ward off attacks could play a crucial role in protecting highly sensitive data within large organizations.”MORE

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