Morphing Network Assets to Restrict Adversarial Reconnaissance

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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Defense contractor Raytheon has received a $3.1 million contract from the U.S. Army's Communications, Electronics, Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate to develop an advance network security system.

The Morphing Network Assets to Restrict Adversarial Reconnaissance - or MORPHINATOR for short - will employ "cyber maneuvering techniques to thwart potential attackers in high-threat environments," according to a Raytheon press release.

"The intent of cyber maneuver is to place computer network defense technology into a proactive state, thereby shifting the advantage away from the attacker. By constantly changing the characteristics of the networks it resides on, MOPRHINATOR provides a more robust and trusted networking solution," said Jack Donnelly, director of Trusted Network Systems for Raytheon's Network Centric Systems business.

MORPHINATOR would provide an adaptive defense response that would thwart an intrusion attempt by randomly changing network settings while simultaneously allowing the network to operate normally for an authenticated user.

"Cyber maneuver is the technique of dynamically modifying aspects and configurations of networks, hosts and applications in a manner that is undetectable and unpredictable by an adversary but still manageable for network administrators," the company explains.

MORPHINATOR would not be deployed as an alternative to more traditional network defense systems, but will be designed to be employed in concert with existing security methodologies to enhance an system defenses in the event of an attack.

Back in May of this year, Kansas State University cybersecurity researchers were awarded over one-million dollars in grants from the Air Force to conduct a five year study into the development a similar adaptive "moving-target defense" system to protect critical networks from attacks.

The researchers are looking into the viability of designs in which systems, after detecting an intrusion attempt, could autonomously respond by altering key configurations, essentially becoming self-defending networks.

The researchers believe the development of such a defense mechanism would turn the tables to a significant degree against attackers, who currently have the upper hand by needing only to identify one exploitable vulnerability to wreak havoc on a system.

The concept of a "moving-target defense" was first proposed over a decade ago, and other researchers have toyed with the idea, but the Kansas State research project was the first instance where a sizeable level of funding had been committed to investigating the methodology.

The project is aimed at determining if the development of adaptive defense systems is not only feasible, but also cost-effective from a resource allocation perspective.

It appears that Raytheon's MORPHINATOR contract means the concept of the "moving-target defense" has risnn to next level.

Source:  http://raytheon.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=2136

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