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Researchers Try to Stalk Botnets Used By Hackers

To track the spread of botnets, Sandia National Laboratories computer security specialists Rob Minnich and Don Rudish are using a converted Dell Thunderbird supercomputer to simulate a mini-Internet of one million computers. The researchers hope to be able to infect their test network with a botnet in October and watch and collect data on how it spreads. One of the project's key challenges will be tricking the botnet into thinking it is operating on the real Internet.

The Sandia computer, called MegaTux, is an example of a new kind of computational science in which computers are used to simulate scientific instruments. "One of the advantages of such a system is that we can stop the simulation at any point and look for patterns," Rudish says. The researchers say no one has previously tried to program a computer to simulate more than tens of thousands of operating systems.

In addition to simulating the Internet, Sandia's Keith Vanderveen says the research will be valuable for exploring the design of future supercomputers that could have millions, instead of thousands, of processors, and could be invaluable for researchers looking to design new, more secure protocols for the Internet. "We will have a test bed where we will be able to try things out at Internet scale," Vanderveen says.

From The New York Times
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