Opinion by Thought Leaders
Read the latest opinions from tech & business pros across the globe.

Are Computer Viruses a form of Biomimicry?

 

What is biomimicry?

Biomimicry is a tool which can be used while seeking innovation. The concept is that nature has already solved many design problems through the process of evolution. Living things that are still extant have received bits and bytes of code in the form of genetic material and when this information interfaces with the environment, sustainable life forms emerge. Animals, plants, viruses, and bacteria adapt by engineering themselves over the billions of years that life has existed on Earth. The Biomimicry Institute provides numerous examples.

Neural networks mimic Nature's system of a syncytium of nerves to create a mathematical system useful to solve nonlinear problems. Another example of biomimicry given by the Institute of the same name is that of the Murray effect, demonstrated in the veins of leaves and arteries of animals. Murray, an early 20th century physiologist described a formula for the radius of first and successive order branches to maximize conductance of fluid. Flow of fluid in the veins of leaves is important for transport of water, nutrition, and gases, so is an obvious object of study. Leaf venation has evolved over time in response to environmental conditions. This is an example of the genetic code (bits & bytes) being transmitted selectively according to environmental pressure. Dicotyledon leaf venation has many closed loops which are able to carry fluid in the event of damage to other veins including, the central ones. This type of redundancy is built into retinal blood vessels and it has been postulated that it might make for better water and electricity distribution networks, too. Could such a system of reticulating, interconnected, looping pathways build redundancy which allows digital systems to be more resistant to attack? Parenthetically, stoma to various pathways could open and close (like vacuum tubes, zeros and ones, ons and offs) in response to the amount of fluid in the environment. Could we use biomimicry to make digital systems better able to respond to fluctuations in demand?

What are real world viruses?

Viruses are packets of DNA or RNA and protein. They cannot live by themselves but must invade living cells like bacteria or animal cells where they can take over those cells to reproduce. Viruses have a genetic code and can evolve just like single or multiple cell organisms can. Typically, viruses have a nucleic acid genome, a capsid, and an envelope. The capsid surrounds the DNA or RNA and is made of proteins that are, in fact, encoded by the virus’s genetic material. Some viruses have envelopes which are bits of lipid taken from the host cell when the viruses are extruded.

Although viruses have many characteristics of a living life form because they carry genetic material can replicate and undergo natural selection, they do not have a cell structure, which is been considered an import important characteristic of life. They are somewhat like a disembodied bot. Viruses are called virions and they can spread to human cells through various vectors such as blood sucking insects, the fecal-oral route, sexual contact, or airborne particles from sneezing. This is roughly analogous to a computer virus spreading through the internet or through a thumb drive or an unsuspecting host opening a malicious email. The body's own immune response and antiviral medication are roughly analogous to cyber security.

The genetic code which animates viruses is carried on strands of DNA or RNA which carry four types of nucleic acids-guanine, cytosine, thymine, and adenosine, which give cells the instructions they need to make proteins responsible for cell function. How they do this may provide important lessons for computer scientists. Moreover, microbiologists I have much to learn from the computer lab. Computational biology may be a discrete enhancement to conventional thinking. It could be called a form of biomimicry when computer antibodies against computer viruses are inducedDigital ants can swarm to and isolate digital threats.

Continue reading
  2018 Reads
  0 Comments
2018 Reads
0 Comments

Why AI is Crucial to Cyber Security

 

When you think of AI (artificial intelligence), the first thought you may have is in regards to games, recreation, and futuristic robots. After all, AI is the next big thing in virtual video games, taking "reality" to a whole new level. However, AI is so much more than that. There has been a lot of hype about AI in the last couple of years. Again, most of it in the form of promises of faster answers, better outcomes, and improved productivity. From advanced machine learning and intelligent apps to digital twins and conversational systems, AI is just breaking out of an emerging state with substantial disruptive potential across all industries, says Gartner. Please don't misunderstand, there have been many examples of advancements in various industries with AI algorithms from predictive analytics in healthcare to cognitive science.

However, a lot of AI development is being spent in the cyber security space, as well it should with the advent of ransomware, sophisticated malware and the like. All the top technology companies are spending millions each year on AI and cyber security -- from Microsoft to Google, from Cisco to Symantec, including the big name anti-virus companies. However, in the last few years, there has been an increase in startups around security tools that tout machine learning and AI (Darktrace, Cylance, AlienVault, etc.). You can look at this trend by checking out Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017, 2016, and 2015.


Robust security strategies are critical

While there is no "silver bullet" when it comes to protecting your company's network (at least not yet), it is important to have a robust, multi-layered security strategy. Unfortunately, those who are becoming most advanced when it comes to AI in terms of security are the ones on the offensive: cyber criminals, says Banking Technology. The way to combat these criminals is to escalate AI defenses. However, nothing is fool proof. There's not enough manpower in the world to make sure networks are 100% secure 100% of the time, especially with the prevalence of a cloud-based infrastructure.

Solid products, knowledgeable technical staff, and end-user training go hand-in-hand. This should include social engineering training and the use of AI/machine learning in your environment. As an example, on top of your traditional firewall and IPS (Intrusion Prevention System), add an industry-proven endpoint monitoring system, preferably one that uses machine learning to identify and prevent bad code from executing. Then, add a tool that gives you a holistic view of your entire network in real time that identifies advanced threats, including those stealthy, unconventional, silent attackers. Be sure that your end-user security training is inclusive, given regularly, and updated often as trends change around social engineering and phishing.


Additional risks in the healthcare realm

The risks with cyber security aren't just financial, although that aspect can certainly be devastating. We've all heard the stories of major retailers and credit card companies getting hacked for stolen account numbers and sensitive private information. However, the threat goes beyond that into the very realm of life and death. We're talking specifically about the healthcare industry. Whereas cyber attackers in years past have struck quickly and loudly as part of a virtual sneak attack, today's cyber criminals are taking it much more slowly and methodically. The focus now is not just on stealing the data, but altering that data without detection, according to CNBC.

Continue reading
  274 Reads
  0 Comments
274 Reads
0 Comments