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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ants' intruder defense strategy could lead to better email spam filters, Stanford biologist finds

"Biology Professor Deborah M. Gordon presents a model suggesting that the human immune system and ants use similar distributed defense strategies to fight off intruders. Adapting this technique could yield stronger email spam filters." according to Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service.

Photo: Stanford University

To kill spam, email filters might need to act a bit more like ants.

Photo: Deborah M. Gordon
Deborah M. Gordon, a biology professor at Stanford, has worked with a computer scientist, Fernando Esponda, and produced a model that suggests that ant colony defense behavior follows the same distributed network rules as the human immune system. The work suggests that evolution has twice produced a simple security protocol for social insects that, installed in email servers, could make them far more difficult for spammers to hack.

The results are published in the journal The Royal Society Proceedings B.

Immune cells in vertebrate animals use specialized surface molecules to recognize pathogens. These molecules are incredibly specific, usually corresponding only to one or two bacterium or virus strains.

It would be terribly unwieldy for the cell to carry a molecule that matches every existing pathogen, so immune cells typically hunt only one type of intruder. It's fine if a bug gets past one immune cell – the system knows it will inevitably spot the intruder. This approach is known as a distributed decision network.

Ants, it turns out, use a similar strategy to keep intruders from their nest, Gordon and coauthor Esponda, a computer scientist at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico, write in their new paper.

Source: Stanford University News