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Cybersecurity done the ant colony way

Scientists at Wake Forest are creating security software inspired by the swarming intelligence used by ants to deter intruders.

Sometimes it's truly curious who or what inspires us to achieve our best.

There are those sports teams who, sadly, sing "Wonderwall" by Oasis before entering the arena.

There are artists whose muses turn out to be more Pamela Anderson than Laurie Anderson.

And now, according to the Telegraph, some rather honest scientists from Wake Forest University confess that they have been inspired to create rather progressive cybersecurity software by staring at ants for a very long time.

I've never realized this when I've stood on a few hundred of them heading for my kitchen waste basket, but ants are apparently quite clever at defending themselves.

They use something called swarming intelligence.

Inspirational. CC SnapR/Flickr

It seems to be a little like the strategy the police use when confronted by protesters at an event like the G20 conference. Once an ant senses a danger, he is joined by more and more ants until the threat is repelled.

A team at Wake Forest was so inspired by this approach to antagonism that it wondered whether it could create security software in which digital "ants" could call for reinforcements the minute they sensed the unwanted presence of a disaffected Swedish 14-year-old.

Professor Errin Fulp told the Telegraph: "In nature, we know that ants defend against threats very successfully. They can ramp up their defense rapidly, and then resume routine behavior quickly after an intruder has been stopped. We were trying to achieve that same framework in a computer system."

The Wake Foresters believe that this new software will allow for much quicker detection and return to normal computer function.

Glenn Fink (what fine names this research team seems to enjoy) told the Telegraph: "Our idea is to deploy 3,000 different types of digital ants, each looking for evidence of a threat. As they move about the network, they leave digital trails modeled after the scent trails ants in nature use to guide other ants."

This Fink and Fulp ant idea seems rather clever to me. If only I could use it to repel people on the street who ask me to sign petitions, give money or offer directions to the Hustler Club.