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Tactical Immune System (TIS)


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Information Systems

OBJECTIVE: Natural biological immune systems protect animals from dangerous foreign pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxins. Their role in the body is very analogous to that of computer/cyber security systems in computing. Although there are many differences between living organisms and computer systems, we believe that the similarities are compelling and could point the way to improved computer/cyber security in the tactical environment. The analogy with immunology contributes an important point of view about how to achieve computer/cyber security, one that can potentially lead to systems built with quite different sets of assumptions, biases, and organizing principles than in the past. A Tactical Immune System capability needs to be researched and developed to be able to accurately identify self, defend against “non-self” threats through self-healing properties, and re-align baseline definition of self once threats are eradicated.

DESCRIPTION: Immunologists have traditionally described the problem solved by the immune system as the problem of distinguishing "self" from dangerous "other" (or "non-self") and eliminating dangerous non-self. The problem of protecting computer systems from malicious intrusions can similarly be viewed as the problem of distinguishing self from non-self. Non-self might be an unauthorized user on a tactical radio, foreign or unanticipated code on a tactical node or information system, or data that cannot be verified from a confidentiality or integrity perspective - which can coincidentally negatively affect a critical mission. What would it take to build a computer immune system with some or all of the properties of a natural immune system for the tactical environment? It might have at least the following basic components: a stable definition of self, prevention or detection and subsequent elimination of dangerous foreign activities (infections), memory of previous infections (compromises/information pilferage attacks), a method of recognizing new infections, and a method of protecting the immune system itself from attack. The field of Autonomic Computing which investigates principles of self-management, self-healing, and the like serves as a viable baseline for exploring immune system principles at the tactical edge. The goal of this effort is to investigate the potential of applying the aforementioned immune system principles to a representative tactical system or set of systems comprising a network environment. This solution will provide a confident level of security for the target tactical systems without relying on a full blown network-based infrastructure for application of patches (and similar) and the recovery from new threats.


    • Research existing schemes (government, industry, or academia) for characterizing a Tactical Immune System (TIS) for an enterprise and tactical environment.


    • Identify target tactical platforms and network environments for incorporating TIS concepts.


    • Identify potential areas of applicability of TIS concepts on deployed or soon to be fielded tactical systems.


    • Design proof of concept TIS for target tactical platform(s) to demonstrate its feasibility. The concept should consider best practices based on government, industry and academic standards to enable use in the Army’s Common Operating Environment (COE).


  • Produce a detailed research report outlining the design and architecture of TIS, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed approach.

Phase II:

    • Based on the results from Phase I, execute design of and implement a fully functioning prototype solution for an autonomic Tactical Immune System (TIS) geared towards protecting identified tactical systems.


    • Provide test and evaluation results that demonstrate the value of the TIS to the target tactical platforms.


  • Develop a final report for Phase II describing the specific concepts of a TIS (e.g. self designation, we were able to design, implement, and test within actual tactical environments).


    • Further develop prototype into a transitional product with necessary documentation and test results for a Program of Record such as the Nett Warrior (NW), Program Execution Office (PEO) Soldier for integration into their environments or target Ground Soldier Systems (GSS).


  • Socialize prototype and overall concept to other US defense Programs of Record and commercial implementations to identify additional areas of applicability for TIS and associated concepts.


    •, Artificial Immune System-Based Approach For Air Combat Maneuvering, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This technology is protected by a pending U.S. Non-Provisional Patent Application (Reference No. ARC-15977-1)


    •, Tactical Immunized Maneuvering System for Exploration Air Vehicles. John Kaneshige and K. Krishnakumar, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035


    •, Immune System Approaches to Intrusion Detection - A Review (ICARIS). Uwe Aickelin, Julie Greensmith, Jamie Twycross, Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Artificial Immune Systems (ICARIS), 316-329, 2004


KEYWORDS: immune, pathogen, cyber security, tactical, attack, autonomic, self-healing, computer

  • TPOC-1: Joe Law
  • Phone: 443-395-5708
  • Email:
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