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Title: A biodiversity approach to cyber security
Author: Jackson, Jennifer T.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7425 6025
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2017
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Cyber crime is a significant threat to modern society that will continue to grow as technology is integrated further into our lives. Cyber attackers can exploit vulnerabilities to access computing systems and propagate malware. Of growing concern is the use of multiple exploits across layers of the software stack, plus faster criminal response times to newly disclosed vulnerabilities creating surges in attacks before signature-based malware protection can take effect. The wide scale adoption of few software systems fuels the problem, allowing identical vulnerabilities to be exploited across networks to maximise infection in a single attack. This requires new perspectives to tackle the threat. Biodiversity is critical in the functioning of healthy ecosystems. Whilst the idea of diversity benefiting computer security is not new, there are still gaps in understanding its advantages. A mathematical and an agent-based model have been developed using the ecosystem as a framework. Biodiversity is generated by individualised software stacks defined as genotypes with multiple loci. The models allow the protection offered by diversity to be quantified for ad hoc networks which are expected to become prevalent in the future by specifying how much diversity is needed to tolerate or mitigate two abstract representations of malware encompassing different ways multiple exploits target software stack layers. Outputs include the key components of ecosystem stability: resistance and resilience. Results show that diversity by itself can reduce susceptibility, increase resistance, and increase the time taken for malware to spread, thereby allowing networks to tolerate malware and maintain Quality of Service. When dynamic diversity is used as part of a multi-layered defence strategy with additional mechanisms such as blacklisting, virtualisation, and recovery through patching and signature based protection, diversity becomes more effective since the power of dynamic software updating can be utilised to mitigate attacks whilst maintaining network operations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QA76 Electronic computers. Computer science. Computer software