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DHS Commercializes Two Nature-Themed Cyber Products

Mark J. Terrill/AP

The Homeland Security Department has successfully transitioned two federally funded pieces of cybersecurity technology to be marketed to the commercial tech sector.

Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory modeled MLSTONES and Digital Ants after phenomena found in nature. MLSTONES is a set of algorithms that use principles from protein sequencing to identify similarities in data sets—it searches large data sets for smaller ones, zeroing in on segments of malicious code. Digital Ants uses sensors that search networks for key metrics like CPU usage and network bandwidth. If those sensors find malware, they draw other sensors—just as one insect might attract a swarm of others—to the anomaly and then notify system administrators.

The products were licensed as part of the Science and Technology Directorate’s Transition to Practice Program, designed to make federally developed systems commercially viable. For that program, S&T prioritizes technology that fills an “existing or imminent cybersecurity gap in public or private systems that impacts national security,” according to DHS.

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MLSTONES and Digital Ants were initially licensed to the IP Group, a commercialization company, and then to a portfolio company called Cynash, which will oversee the transition into the commercial marketplace.

Those two are the fourth and fifth products in the last five months to transition out of S&T’s TPP program. It’s the first time two were simultaneously licensed by one company.

The program also intends “move federally funded technologies over the so-called ‘Valley of Death,' ” where they languish for lack of commercial interest, and into a marketplace “where they can be put to use,” DHS Acting Undersecretary for Science and Technology William Bryan said in a statement.

TTP currently has about 40 cybersecurity technologies in its portfolio, which may eventually be licensed out for commercialization.

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