The future Internet environment is likely to be increasingly dependent on an
agent-based model of computing, with significant implications for Internet
security. Agents are executable software objects with executions that are not
tied to any specific host or computing resource or to any geographical or
logical network location. Agents perform computation and communication defined
by a user, but the execution platforms are typically outside the user's
administrative control (and outside the administrative control of the user's
organization). The conceptual model of agent operation is one in which an
intelligent agent, at the request of a user, goes to one or more remote hosts to
perform a computation or gather information and then returns to the user with
the result. An agent's mode of operation may range from partially to fully
autonomous, and the degree to which an agent is autonomous may vary throughout
the life of that agent.
A future agent-based computing environment may include features such as
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- Agents share information and cooperate to complete the user's task.
- Agents protect themselves with intrinsic security mechanisms but also
depend on some measure of extrinsic security provided by the infrastructure
and cooperating agents.
- Since most of an agent's activity takes place outside the user's domain of
administrative control (and hence outside any firewall designed to protect
the user), the traditional firewall has little to contribute to security.
- Replication and agent diversity provide increased survivability while
under attack and under conditions of degraded or uncertain infrastructure
- Agents communicate to enhance the detection of threats. Specialized sensor
agents are specifically designed to detect particular types of threats, and
groups of diverse sensor agents provide the entire agent
"collective" with a comprehensive profile of current threats.
- The agent-supported infrastructure protects itself and takes defensive
action without user intervention.