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Air Force pursues new cyber strategies

Feb. 3, 2014 - 02:38PM   |  
By MICHAEL PECK   |   Comments
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Polymorphic enclaves and incorruptible software are among the cyberdefense technologies sought by an Air Force Research Laboratory initiative.

The project, by AFRL's Information Directorate, focuses on multiple areas of cyberdefense. One method is polymorphic enclaves that "create a rapidly-shifting network architecture with automated agility and diversity mechanisms, to continually, dynamically, and unpredictably modify or morph the network into secure operational modes both before and during attacks," according to AFRL. Specific techniques might include asymmetric routing, IP-hopping, and spoofing of operating system fingerprints.

Another goal is creating incorruptible data codes and software executables. This might include watermarking algorithms and protocols. Cyberattacks might also be foiled by diversified computer configurations instead of standardized formats. "Unfortunately, a single attack exploit for the standardized configuration can be used to compromise all systems with that configuration," AFRL notes. "To counter this threat, we can leverage for example, virtualization extensions found in modern commodity processors to provide low overhead diversification of code. We can also apply metamorphic transformations on code, a technique that has been effectively used by malware authors, to create semantically equivalent but behaviorally different variants of programs."

AFRL is also interested in a "recover with immunity" concept, in which networks automatically repair and recover from attacks without human intervention.

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