Intelligent Defense Against Intruders

Moving-Target Defense Aimed to Deflect Cyberattackers
Imagine a computer network that can fool intruders into seeing configurations that in reality don't exist, making it hard for them to invade the system. That's what Scott DeLoach is trying to figure out how to do.

DeLoach, a Kansas State University computer and information sciences professor, and colleague Simon Ou have received a 5-year, $1 million-plus grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to study a type of adaptive cybersecurity called moving-target defense.

In an interview with Information Security Media Group, DeLoach explains a network that employs a moving-target defense would automatically and periodically randomize its configuration through various methods, such as changing the addresses of software applications on the network, switching between instances of the applications and changing the location of critical system data to thwart cyberattackers.

DeLoach says digital assailants can easily determine the type of software, operating systems and configuration settings on a network, and map it out. "Then, they select the best time for them to attack and exploit those security holes in order to do the most damage," he says. "This could change that."

In the interview, DeLoach:

  • Defines intelligent adaptation and moving-target defense;
  • Illustrates in detail how a moving-target-defense system could, theoretically, work to frustrate cyberattacks;
  • Explains how existing technologies, including virtualization, could be employed in a moving-target-defense system.

A retired U.S. Air Force major, DeLoach has been teaching computer science at Kansas State since 2001. His research focuses on applying software engineering methods, techniques and models to the design and development of intelligent, complex, adaptive and autonomous multi-agent systems.

DeLoach received a Ph.D. and master of science in computer engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He earned his BS in computer engineering from Iowa State University.

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