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Oak Ridge Explores Cybots

By Government Computer News

March 4, 2009



The Ubiquitous Network Transient Autonomous Mission Entities (UNTAME) program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is working to develop technology that will lead to an army of software robots, dubbed cybots, which are intelligent enough to cooperate with one another to monitor and defend the largest computer networks. Joe Trien, from Oak Ridge's Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, says UNTAME is a prototype distributed, intelligent framework that supports existing commercial tools and security devices and enables traditional point-to-point solutions to collaborate and provide situational awareness and response capabilities in near real time.

UNTAME is the result of a long-term project by the division's Cyber Security and Information Intelligence Research Group aimed at developing futuristic security technology for large and complex environments. UNTAME's cybots are different from traditional software agents in that they form a collective and are aware of other cybot's activities and conditions. Trien says a cybot is more intelligent than an agent, and when a cybot goes down, other cybots can continue the mission, while an agent would simply be lost. Cybot jobs could include network monitoring and discovery, intrusion detection, and data management.

Trien says there are several challenges to taking the system to the next level and demonstrating the cybots on an operational network, including establishing operations with little network overhead for greater transparency, scrutinizing the code, and testing the cybots to ensure there are no unexpected behaviors.

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