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Monday, October 04, 2004

Protocol Informatics - Genetic Model Applied to Software

Wired magazine has published an article,about Marshall Beddoe, a security analyst who is turning to algorithms used in bioinformatics research to understand the arcane mysteries of closed, proprietary software. Marshall Bedoe runs the The Protocol Informatics Project The Protocol Informatics project is a software framework that allows for advanced sequence and protocol stream analysis by utilizing bioinformatics algorithms. The purpose of this software is to identify protocol fields in unknown or poorly documented network protocol formats. The algorithms that are utilized perform comparative analysis on a series of samples to better understand the underlying structure of the otherwise random-looking data. The PI framework was designed for experimentation through the use of a widget-based component set.Geneticists have also spent many years analyzing the rate of mutation between different DNA samples. Given two pieces of DNA, biologists have devised complex algorithms to discover whether they're descended from the same ancestors. The method works by comparing the genetic differences with the known mutation rates of certain DNA components. A powerpoint presentation about the Protocol Informatics project is available here.
Beddoe applied the same principles to his mutating network conversations. He notes, for example, that ASCII text is much more likely to "mutate" into other text than it is to mutate into something else. By feeding in probabilities about text instead of DNA nucleotides, Beddoe discovered that he could more easily spot related fields in network exchanges.The genetics algorithms told him that some chunks of data were close relations; in fact, they were bits of the network protocol that were performing similar actions. Some view the problem of decoding the language of networks and the problem of finding signals in DNA are really two related instances of machine learning problems. One immediate usage could be use this knowledge to block spam's and in criminal investigation for sophistictaed financial and terrorist related deals.
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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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