Friendly worms could spread software fixes

Friendly worms could spread software fixesMicrosoft researchers are hoping to use "information epidemics" to distribute software patches more efficiently. Milan Vojnović and colleagues from Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, want to make useful pieces of information such as software updates behave more like computer worms: spreading between computers instead of being downloaded from central servers. The research may also help defend against malicious types of worm, the researchers say.

Because no central server needs to provide and coordinate all the downloads, Software patches that spread like worms could be faster and easier to distribute because no central server must bear all the load. "These strategies can minimise the amount of global traffic across the network," Vojnović says.

The research has a second potential benefit. "If we understand how future worms might be capable of spreading, we can design better countermeasures," says Vojnović. For example, some of the new strategies would flatten the usual spike in overall network activity that can give away software worm attacks, but instead they would be revealed by spikes in local traffic.