Hackers stay out

Published: Sunday 28 February 1999

Easy dissemination of information and global access are two of the Internet's key strengths. Ironically, these are also its biggest weaknesses. Anyone any corner of the globe can sneak into important government files and documents, and then do whatever they want with these. Hackers, as these Internet fiends are called, have emerged as the biggest threat to the information superhighway. Now, a computer algorithm originally designed to analyse and decipher the genetic code is being used to detect Internet hackers. The algorithm, called Tieresias and developed in 1996, finds and analyses patterns in data without looking at the details. It has been used mainly in the growing bioinformatics industry where it correlates the sequences of nucleotides to the gene function. But now researchers at IBM's Zurich laboratory are using it to detect intruders in computer networks. The central idea of the algorithm is to go through the computer logs to determine normal behaviour of the computer and then keeps a constant look out for new patterns caused by a hacker. The algorithm is supposedly much superior to other known data security systems, but has not been tested commercially yet ( Science , Vol 282, No 3146).

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