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Cyber bugs: Ants chasing worms

You’ve heard of computer worms, of course.

You’ve heard of computer worms, of course. Are you ready for digital ants?

New computer defense devices have been modeled after the lowly but hardy ant, the journal Mathematics & Economics reports.

Unlike traditional security devices, which are static, these “digital ants” wander through computer networks looking for — you guessed it, computer worms, the self-replicating programs designed to steal information or facilitate unauthorized use of machines. True to ant nature, a digital ant that detects a threat summons an army of ants to converge at that location, drawing the attention of human operators who step in to investigate.

The concept, called “swarm intelligence,” promises to transform cyber security because it adapts readily to changing threats. It was developed by security experts at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., and Wake Forest University. So far, the approach is best suited to large networks but the scientists still are working on broader applications.

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Yes, but ants also make bothersome hills. Could your data get lost in one? Not to worry. Digital ants cannot survive without software “sentinels” located at each machine, which in turn report to network “sergeants” monitored by humans, who supervise the colony and maintain ultimate control.