Don’t put all your bananas in one basket

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Don’t put all your bananas in one basket

December 11, 2019

December 11, 2019

Stephanie Forrest, director of the Biodesign Center for Biocomputing, Security and Society, has long been interested in how nature can inform computer science. In fact, that’s the primary focus of her work at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute.

Forrest’s research team translates insights between computer science and biology, with a focus on understanding and mitigating malicious behavior in complex systems. Forrest is also a professor at ASU’s School of Computing. Information and Decisions Systems Engineering.

It seems that others are catching on. TIME magazine recognized her insights recently in a November 18 article, “What we can learn about the near-death of the banana.”

The key issue at hand is called “monoculture,” the practice of fostering just one variety of something.

Fred B. Schneider, a cybersecurity expert at Cornell University explains that “monocultures are dangerous in almost every facet of life,” “With people, of course, populations are stronger and more disease-resistant if there’s more genetic diversity. And with transportation, it’s more effective to have several different options—when a train line is shut down, if you have other choices at your disposal, like a car or another form of transit, you won’t be stuck.”

Since the late 1990s Forrest has promoted diversity in computing systems. Monocultures in computing have brought down Twitter, Amazon, ebay, Netflix, CNN and others by allowing an outside party to gain control of a network of internet-connected devices, all running similar software.

With systems security front-and-center, researchers like Forrest and her team continue to look to avert crises – and to quote the article, “before everything goes bananas.”

 

Written by: Adapted from TIME by Dianne Price