When Francis Crick discovered DNA at Cambridge University in 1953 it heralded a giant step forward in our understanding of the genes that trigger major diseases, and led to the creation and manufacturing of drugs to treat these devastating diseases.
For the first time we were able to plot and understand the makeup of major diseases, and design drugs to treat them rather than merely treat the symptoms.
Cyber security, and in particular end-point security, has been stuck in the pre-DNA era. A computer becomes infected and a signature is sent to the rest of us to try and protect us.
Yet even tiny mutations to malware result in a 'zero day' attack to which we are all unprotected.
But the cyber security industry is slowly learning from Francis Crick, by mapping the DNA of malware and protecting us prior to execution.
The big problem with signature-based threat detection is that even tiny mutations in malware can fool it. Hackers can repackage the same code again and again with only a few small tweaks to change its signature. The process can even be automated. This makes hacking computers cheap, fast, and easy—much more so than defending them. Margaret Lospinuso, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), was pondering this problem a few years ago when she had a brainstorm. A computer scientist with a lifelong interest in biology, she was aware that programs for matching DNA sequences often had to ignore small discrepancies like this, too. What if she could create a kind of DNA for malware—and then train a computer to read it?