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Mobile agents are autonomous software entities that can halt themselves, ship themselves to another agent-enabled host on the network, and continue execution, deciding where to go and what to do along the way. Mobile agents are goal-oriented, can communicate with other agents, and can continue to operate even after the machine that launched them has been removed from the network. The mobile agent computing paradigm raises several privacy and security concerns, which clearly are one of the main obstacles to the widespread use and adaptation of this new technology. Mobile agents applications are currently being developed by industry, government, and academia for use in such areas as telecommunications systems, personal digital assistants, information management, on-line auctions, service brokering, contract negotiation, air traffic control, parallel processing, and computer simulation. Mobile agent security issues include: authentication, identification, secure messaging, certification, trusted third parties, non-repudiation, and resource control. Mobile agent frameworks must be able to counter new threats as agent hosts must be protected from malicious agents, agents must be protected from malicious hosts, and agents must be protected from malicious agents. This project is directed towards evaluating existing mobile agent security mechanisms and developing new countermeasures for mobile agent security threats.
A number of advantages of using mobile code and mobile agent computing paradigms have been proposed. These advantages include: overcoming network latency, reducing network load, executing asynchronously and autonomously, adapting dynamically, operating in heterogeneous environments, and having robust and fault-tolerant behavior. Most of these advantages are applicable to narrow application areas and more work needs to been done to verify these claims in an operational environment. Moreover, one of the main obstacles to the widespread adoption of mobile agents is the legitimate security concerns of system developers, network administrators, and information officers. Many security mechanisms have been proposed to mitigate agent-to-agent, agent-to-platform, and platform-to-agent security risks. These security mechanisms may, however, introduce performance constraints that could dictate design decisions or negate the benefit of using mobile agents for certain applications. The focus of this research is to evaluate these claimed advantages and determine the applicability and benefits of using mobile agents for intrusion detection in large-scale enterprise applications, high-speed networks, high-volume data management requirements, and highly distributed and heterogeneous environments.