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It's a jungle out there on the Internet. With countless viruses, applets, and attachments on the loose, you might say that the systems designed to protect our computers are facing the kind of challenges that confront animal immune systems in a crowded environment.

That's why Stephanie Forrest, a professor of computer science at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, calls this "computing in the wild." She argues that computer scientists could learn some powerful lessons from biology about how to develop security systems that can cope with this teeming software ecosystem. Forrest is a pioneer in computer immune system research, a field that aims to take the important attributes of biological immune systems and use them to enhance the protection of our computers.

For a start, computer security could use some of the autonomy that biological systems possess. "Our computer systems don't work well enough to be...

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