$1.85 Million U.S. Army Contract Continues Florida Tech Biologically Inspired Security Research

MELBOURNE, FLA. — Richard Ford, Ph.D., computer sciences associate professor, College of Engineering, and director of Florida Tech’s Harris Institute
for Assured Information, College of Engineering, was awarded a $1.85 million contract from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to continue his research
developing a biologically inspired tactical security infrastructure (BITSI) for military computing and disaster relief operations. The funding continues
work he began in 2007 under $954,000 from the ARL.

Collaborating with him is a team led by Marco Carvalho, Ph.D., from the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC). A not-for-profit research
laboratory, the IHMC develops technology for the Department of Defense, NASA and intelligence agencies among other entities.

“The natural world is wonderful at adapting to change, whereas computer systems are rather brittle. We’re taking our inspiration from biology in this
next-generation system, trying to build computers that can protect themselves when under attack” said Ford.

“There is great technology out there on the battlefield,” he added. “Information superiority allows for much smaller forces accomplishing incredible tasks.
However, a soldier on the field doesn’t want to be a network engineer – they want to do their job and get back home without having to worry how to manage
their computers.

“You must create systems that are more difficult to compromise. We’re trying to do this by viewing a system as you would the human body. When attacked, the
immune system switches on. We’re building artificial immune systems, stealing from Mother Nature by design. No one else is doing this work quite the way we
are and we’re very excited about it.”

The biological analogy isn’t perfect. With a virus or injury, for example, the body may rest, or even go into a coma; it can shut down while healing
occurs. Solving the problem while coming to a halt is not an option for a network where communication and information must continue. A network must heal
while protecting its mission.

On Ford’s team are Department of Computer Science faculty Gerald Marin and William Allen. To date, the project has helped support nine undergraduate and
graduate students.

The initial results, Ford says, are good. He has already presented and published papers on BITSI. His team has also briefed personnel at the Army Research
Lab in Washington, D.C., demonstrating the simulation environment that has begun to work and produce results. The team showed the model’s danger detection,
local learning and group learning capabilities. A full-scale demonstration of the technology is expected in September.

The idea of detecting system damage stems from danger theory which describes the response of a vertebrate immune system when danger, an invader such as a
virus, is detected. The team is now investigating causal analysis. In this, the system can not only detect that damage is occurring, but reason about the
underlying cause.

“We can look inside the system file by file, event by event, to tell what happened to the computer when it stopped working,” says Ford. “This gives us an
incredible view into the machine. Now we have to learn how to autonomously make intelligent guesses about the cause and what to do about it.”

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