U.S. funds study of tech monocultures

Wednesday, 26 November 2003, 11:36 AM EST

The study, proposed by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of New Mexico almost a year ago, will seek to identify commonalities in software that could be used as the basis for attacks. Such common vulnerabilities would point to a computer "monoculture"--a population so homogeneous that a single threat could destroy it.

"We are looking at computers the way a physician would look at genetically related patients, each susceptible to the same disorder," Mike Reiter, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and computer science at Carnegie Mellon, said in a statement. "In a more diverse population, one member may fall victim to a pathogen or disorder while another might not have the same vulnerability."

Massive digital epidemics--such as the Code Red, Slammer and MSBlast worms--have infected hundreds of thousands of computer systems, leaving scientists to wonder if worse is in store for the Internet.

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