Security in mobile agent systems: an approach to protect mobile agents from malicious host attacks
Mobile agents are autonomous programs that roam the Internet from machine to machine under their own control on behalf of their users to perform specific pre-defined tasks. In addition to that, a mobile agent can suspend its execution at any point; transfer itself to another machine then resume execution at the new machine without any loss of state. Such a mobile model can perform many possible types of operations, and might carry critical data that has to be protected from possible attacks. The issue of agent security and specially agent protection from host attacks has been a hot topic and no fully comprehensive solution has been found so far. In this thesis, we examine the possible security attacks that hosts and agents suffer from. These attacks can take one of four possible forms: Attacks from host to host, from agents to hosts, from agents to agents (peer to peer) and finally from hosts to agents. Our main concern in this thesis is these attacks from a malicious host on an agent. These attacks can take many forms including rerouting, spying out code, spying out data, spying out control flow, manipulation of code, manipulation of data, manipulation of control flow, incorrect execution of code, masquerading and denial of execution. In an attempt to solve the problem of malicious host attacks on agents, many partial solutions were proposed. These solutions ranged across simple legal protection, hardware solutions, partitioning, replication and voting, components, self-authentication, and migration history. Other solutions also included using audit logs, read-only state, append only logs, encrypted algorithms, digital signatures, partial result authentication codes, and code mess-up, limited life time of code and data as well as time limited black box security. In this thesis, we present a three-tier solution. This solution is a combination of code mess up, encryption and time out. Choosing code mess-up as part of the solution was due to the several strengths of this method that is based on obfuscating the features of the code so that any attacker will find it very difficult to understand the original code. A new algorithm iii was developed in this thesis to implement code mess-up that uses the concept of variable disguising by altering the values of strings and numerical values. Several encryption algorithms were studied to choose the best algorithm to use in the development of the proposed solution. The algorithms studied included DES, LUCIFER, MADRYGA, NEWDES, FEAL, REDOC, LOKI, KHUFU & KHAFRE, IDEA and finally MMB. The algorithm used was the DES algorithm due to several important factors including its key length. Not any language can be used to implement mobile agents. Candidate languages should possess the portability characteristic and should be safe and secure enough to guarantee a protection for the mobile agent. In addition to that the language should be efficient in order to minimize the implementation overhead and the overhead of providing safety and security. Languages used to implement mobile agents include Java, Limbo, Telescript, and Safe TCL. The Java language was chosen as the programming language for this thesis due to its high security, platform independence, and multithreading. This is in addition to several powerful features that characterize the Java language as will be mentioned later on. Implementing a mobile agent requires the assistance of a mobile agent system that helps in launching the agent from one host to another. There are many existing agent launching systems like Telescript, Aglets, Tacoma, Agent TCL and Concordia. Concordia was chosen to be the implementation tool used to launch our mobile agent. It is a software framework for developing, running and administering mobile agents, and it proved to be very efficient, and effective. The results of our proposed solutions showed the strength of the proposed model in terms of fully protecting the mobile agent from possible malicious host attacks. The model could have several points of enhancements. These enhancements include changing the code mess-up algorithm to a more powerful one, using a different encryption technique, and implementing an agent re-charge mechanism to recharge the agent after it is timeout.
School of Sciences and Engineering
Computer Science & Engineering Department
MS in Computer Science
Date of Award
Online Submission Date
Committee Member 1
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(2001).Security in mobile agent systems: an approach to protect mobile agents from malicious host attacks [Thesis, the American University in Cairo]. AUC Knowledge Fountain.
Fakhry, Dalia. Security in mobile agent systems: an approach to protect mobile agents from malicious host attacks. 2001. American University in Cairo, Thesis. AUC Knowledge Fountain.
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