Users are pushing for greater physical mobility with their network and Internet access. Mobile ad hoc networks (MANET) can provide an efficient mobile network architecture, but security is a key concern. The figure summarizes differences in the state of network security for MANET and fixed networks. MANETs require the ability to distinguish trusted peers, and tolerate the ingress/egress of nodes on an unscheduled basis. Because the networks by their very nature are mobile and selforganizing, use of a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), X.509 certificates, RSA, and nonce ex changes becomes problematic if the ideal of MANET is to be achieved. Molecular biology models such as DNA evolution can provide a basis for a proprietary security architecture that achieves high degrees of diffusion and confusion, and resistance to cryptanalysis. A proprietary encryption mechanism was developed that uses the principles of DNA replication and steganography (hidden word cryptography) for confidentiality and authentication. The foundation of the approach includes organization of coded words and messages using base pairs organized into genes, an expandable genome consisting of DNA-based chromosome keys, and a DNA-based message encoding, replication, and evolution and fitness. In evolutionary biology, fitness is a characteristic that relates to the number of offspring produced from a given genome. From a population genetics point of view, the relative fitness of the mutant depends upon the number of descendants per wild-type descendant. In evolutionary computing, a fitness algorithm determines whether candidate solutions, in this case encrypted messages, are sufficiently encrypted to be transmitted.

MANET versus fixed network security.
The technology provides a mechanism for confidential electronic traffic over a MANET without a PKI for authenticating users. Users may enter and leave a network at will. Users may alternate between trusted, untrusted, unknown, and malicious behavior. Existing mobile networks rely on PKI-provided certificates and public encryption standards such as AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). These are public standards, subject to continuous scrutiny for methods of attacking the underlying basis of security.

The DNA-inspired approach uses a rapidly evolving genome to resist cryptographic analyses. It produces one-way (encryption only) and two-way (encryption/ decryption) codes. Because of the dynamic, evolutionary nature of this approach, potential intruders must continually intercept decoding instructions between source and destination. Missing one generation of genome decryption information seriously corrupts the decryption process. Missing multiple generations eventually renders previous decryption analyses useless. Potential attackers are likely to be unable to continuously intercept all traffic. The genome becomes more fit relative to cryptographic analyses. Furthermore, DNA provides a convenient molecule to establish a new type of physical layer encryption through which encryption codes are instantiated through biochemical means and read back or modified by biochemical means. Such encryption models provide “Security by Obscurity.”

Areas of interest include proprietary secure virtual private MANETs, military MANETs, mobile-commercial MANETs, covert surveillance and tracking of goods, and commercial surveillance and tracking of goods.

This work was done by Harry Shaw of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-15374-1