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A Bot by Any Other Name…

March 7th, 2009

So the Oak Ridge boys are at it again. No, not the terrible hillbilly group that sang “Elvira” whenever the hell THAT was, but the enterprising geeks at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. And there’s probably women there, too. Probably. Anyhoo…

They’ve hatched a brilliant scheme to build a massive botnet that will defend US computers. Apparently, said botnet will be managed and controlled by a “hive mind”, and here’s where things start to get interesting: the system, called UNTAME (Ubiquitous Transient Autonomous Mission Entities) will “…be able to form groups, function autonomously and respond almost immediately.”

OK, I am a bit of a paranoid, sci-fi geek. I am totally thinking SKYNET here. Can’t help myself. These things will be able to make decisions on their own, replicate and regenerate! Even the project director, Joe Trien, admits that “…If we don’t put some boundaries on these cybots, they could turn against us. The potential is always there.”

This project is at least two years out, according to estimates. This really reminds me of the whole “Ethical Worm” debate we’ve had in security for years, though. While it sounds like a good idea on the surface (quick, self-replicating remediation and protection capabilities), I think most of us have come to the conclusion that anything self-replicating could be a nightmare. What if things break? What about “downstream liability” if the thing escapes our network? How do you shut it off? You know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men…

Full article @ FOX News here: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,505159,00.html

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  1. March 7th, 2009 at 09:47 | #1

    You know, Dave, that was the first thought that came to my mind too!… “SkyNet”. And I just saw the trailer for the new Terminator movie last night… makes you think.

    The first such technology was (I think) “SideWinder w/StrikeBack”, a firewall technology from a company I can’t remember anymore… but it basically would go out and try to retaliate against an attacker, supposedly, on some level. That didn’t make it too long… now I am trying to think of the company name.

    Anyway, stuff like this always scares those of us who are paranoid sci-fi freaks because there’s that potential for it to go horribly, horribly wrong.

    Thanks for the post.

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