DARPA explores self-healing system

Within research under way in the Defense Department, backup and recovery efforts take the form of self-healing systems

Within research under way in the Defense Department, backup and recovery efforts take the form of self-healing systems.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is focusing on the concept in its Hierarchical Adaptive Control for Quality of service Intrusion Tolerance (HACQSIT) initiative.

The HACQIT architecture calls for critical applications to run on separate local-area networks, isolated by an out-of-band computer — one that is outside the primary system — with monitoring, control and fault diagnosis software.

The architecture, coupled with HACQIT's intrusion-detection approach, sets the stage for what the project's contractor, Teknowledge Corp., calls "continual recovery."

Here's how it works: HACQIT maintains a database of previous intrusions, enabling the system to stop known attacks and viruses.

But HACQIT also houses a list of allowable system requests, based on an organization's policies. This feature denies requests outside the scope of permissible actions, thus ferreting out previously unknown viruses or attacks.

"Because we can do extremely rapid detection of problems and constantly monitor system health, we can continuously repair the malicious effects of intrusion," said Neil Jacobstein, Teknowledge's president and chief executive officer.

Unauthorized system requests are terminated. But if a rogue process creates or deletes files, HACQIT begins bringing in backed-up files. Clean files are dispatched via the out-of-band computer to replace modified or deleted files, while created files are deleted.

Jacobstein believes HACQIT can be readily commercialized. "We would like to license it to one of the big providers of software security," he said.

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