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Homeland Security

Moving Target Defense

In the current environment, information technology systems are built to operate in a relatively static configuration. For example, addresses, names, software stacks, networks and various configuration parameters remain relatively static over relatively long periods of time. This static approach is a legacy of information technology system design for simplicity in a time when malicious exploitation of system vulnerabilities was not a concern.

Moving Target Defense (MTD) is the concept of controlling change across multiple system dimensions in order to increase uncertainty and apparent complexity for attackers, reduce their window of opportunity and increase the costs of their probing and attack efforts. MTD assumes that perfect security is unattainable. Given that starting point, and the assumption that all systems are compromised, research in MTD focuses on enabling the continued safe operation in a compromised environment and to have systems that are defensible rather than perfectly secure.

“[MTD] Enables us to create, analyze, evaluate, and deploy mechanisms and strategies that are diverse and that continually shift and change over time to increase complexity and cost for attackers, limit the exposure of vulnerabilities and opportunities for attack, and increase system resiliency.” – Trustworthy Cyberspace: Strategic Plan for the Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Program published by the Executive Office of the President, National Science and Technology Council, December 2011

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