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Mobile Software Agents Tomasz Müldner October 2, 1998.

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Presentation on theme: "Mobile Software Agents Tomasz Müldner October 2, 1998."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mobile Software Agents Tomasz Müldner October 2, 1998

2 Introduction: History research on agents was originated by J. McCarthy in the mid-1950’s the term agent was coined by O.G. Selfridge

3 Introduction: According to some... Agent is an intelligent robot, or “humanoid”, that has emotions, feelings and perceptions, and therefore is concerned with cognitive science, speech acts, etc.

4 “...asking the question of what an agent is to a DAI researcher is as embarrassing as the question of what intelligence is for an AI researcher...” Carl Hewitt Introduction:DAI

5 Introduction: contents of this talk concentrate on mobile agents discuss: –communication –security –MALs

6 Agents - what are they?

7 a tool to perform client-server computing by transmitting running programs between clients and servers; (White 1994) Agents - what are they? server

8  find and filter information  customize views of information (e.g. )  automate work (respond to events, such as a new version) Agents - what can they do?

9  make recommendations and perform corporate tasks; e.g. scheduling of meetings execute diagnostics, e.g. in networks rapid (re)deployment of applications active network load balancing Agents - what can they do?

10  distributed OO  adaptive learning systems  AI, expert systems, genetic algorithms  electronic commerce collaborative environment mobile (nomadic) computing Agents - where are they used?

11 Agents - main characteristics

12  autonomous execution (life); have control over their own actions and may operate without the direct intervention of humans  intelligent (perform domain oriented reasoning) Agents - main characteristics

13  perceive their environment  adaptive (they learn)  mobile (they move)  persistent (they have their own idea as to how to accomplish a task) Agents - main characteristics

14  goal oriented (they realize a set of goals)  reactive (or reflexive); they perceive environment and timely and accurately respond to changes that occur in it active, or proactive: act to accomplish goals (take initiative not only respond to the environment) Agents - main characteristics

15 An intelligent agent has some artificial intelligence; for example based on a set of facts and inference rules learning agents are adaptive; they can learn themselves about a subject in question by statistically matching subjects of interest with particular people Intelligent Agents

16 Basic Definitions

17 An agent system can create, interpret, execute, transfer and terminate agents A host can contain several agent systems; each is uniquely identified by its name and address. Basic Definitions

18 Both, an agent and an agent system have an authority; a person or organization for whom they act An agent executes in a context, called the place; there may be one or more places within an agent system Basic Definitions

19 agents have locations (names of their current places) agents have names (the agent’s authority and identity; a unique value within the scope of the authority) Basic Definitions

20 There are two kinds of agents: stationary agent is permanently attached to a place; often resource managers, server programs or search engines mobile agent can move from one place to another

21 Mobility is not new: submitting batch jobs on mainframes perform distributed, real-time processing by executing scripts on networks of mini-computers databases have been using stored procedures. Basic Definitions

22 Agents and DOOP L. Lamport: A distributed system is one in which I cannot get something done because a machine I have never heard of is down.

23 Agents and DOOP: DOOP distribute applications and use a number of network nodes, rather than a single node communicate; for example by messaging (asynchronous) RPC (synchronous) CORBA supports language and system independence

24 Agents and DOOP: Efficiency Which is better to send data to the program to send a program to the source of data (move the code closer to data)

25 Agents and DOOP: Robustness Agents are better in their ability to recover from server breakdowns or unavailability (disconnected operations)

26 Agents and DOOP: Flexibility Mobile agents are particularly useful for rapid deployment of applications and dynamic updates of software; a code server can provide required code (this is also called code on demand). agents can be used for dynamic extensions of server services.

27 Agents and DOOP: Design Designing a client/server architecture requires making all decisions about the communication between the server(s) and the client(s). These decisions are tightly coupled with the underlying problem of specific design and are very difficult or even impossible to change

28 supports rapid deployment of applications, by using a “thin” bootstrap program and code-on-demand approach – objects serialization – local dynamic linking –remote linking that would fetch the code to be linked from a remote site –reflection Agents and DOOP: Java

29 code servers applets - no need for installation Agents and DOOP: Java

30 Java does not support mobility Agents and DOOP: Java

31 Mobile Agent Languages

32 An executing unit, EU is a single process (or thread) image of execution. EU is always considered in the context of a place, which contains components; either EUs, or resources, such as files. A MAL is a language designed for distributed systems, which supports EUs migrating between various places. Mobile Agent Languages: Definitions

33 An EU consists of –a static code segment –a program state: data space containing accessible resources execution state containing system information such as program counter and return address. The EU has a distributed state if its data space exists in more than one place. Mobile Agent Languages: Definitions

34 For an agent to be moved, first it has to be suspended. An entry point is a point where execution of a suspended agent is resumed Two kinds of resumption: –standard resumption (after “go”) –itinerary; one or more entry points may be explicitly specified. Mobile Agent Languages: Definitions

35 strong mobility means that the entire code and execution state of EUs can be moved Strong mobility combined with standard resumption == strong MAL (implies that it must be possible to save the state of the execution, and later, to restore this state) Mobile Agent Languages: Definitions

36 Strong MALs: –Java with a modified JVM –Tcl with modified interpreter –Scheme (no modifications) Weak MALs: –aglets Mobile Agent Languages: Definitions

37 Mobile Agent Languages: Dynamic Linking

38 Name resolution must be able to bind names to both local and remote entities remote code dynamic linking: the code downloaded from a remote site and linked with an EU local resource dynamic linking: arriving EU links with resources available in this place; e.g. link with libraries. Mobile Agent Languages: Dynamic Linking

39 the standard class loader provides local resource linking and the user defined class loader can support remote code linking The programmer has a choice of –fully resolving the class, i.e. load the code closure –partially resolving the class, i.e. postpone resolving dependent classes until later time. Mobile Agent Languages: Dynamic Linking in Java

40 Mobile Agent Languages: Dynamic Linking in MALs library site provides precompiled code that can be picked up by an agent to use at other sites we consider four kinds of dynamic linking. For each kind, we consider an example of a search on a list of sites, using a search procedure.

41 Mobile Agent Languages: Local only Dynamic Linking All the bindings are voided when a program moves. For our example, search is rebound at every site.

42 Mobile Agent Languages: Code-with-a-reference-is-sticky Dynamic Linking A binding is retained as long as there is at least one reference; otherwise it is garbage- collected. In our example, the first site provides binding which will be retained for remaining sites.

43 The user specifies the initial binding which is then retained (as long as there is a reference). In our example, the user can specify which version of search should be used for the traversal. Mobile Agent Languages: User-specified-sticky links Dynamic Linking

44 Gives the programmer complete control over linking. In our example, the user can specify which version of search should be used for the traversal. Mobile Agent Languages: User-specified Dynamic Linking

45 Mobile Agent Languages: Communication

46 agent to service agent; this is typically a client/ server type of interaction (e.g. based on RPC) agent to agent; this a peer-to-peer type of interaction and could be supported by messaging agent to group; this is a group communication (e.g. based on an observer pattern) user to agent interaction; this a standard human- computer interaction, HCI. Mobile Agent Languages: Types of Communication

47 agent to service agent and agent to agent are session oriented Mobile Agent Languages: Types of Communication

48 Security

49 a security policy is a set of guidelines describing whether various actions are allowed or not (may also include royalties) a security policy is static if its guidelines do not depend on external conditions; otherwise it is dynamic. a security policy may include credentials, or level of trust. Security: Definitions

50 Java Security Manager implements a static security policy, which controls access to resources such as file I/O, network access, and others. There is no provision to limit access to other resources such as CPU cycles. Security: Definitions

51 In general, we need to: protect agent hosts from agents agents from agent hosts one agent from another one agent host from another a group of hosts the communication between agent hosts. Security: Protection

52 Doable, but two agents operating on the same host share the same interpreter and they share memory (no hardware faults) Software Fault Isolation inserts a checking code before each unsafe instruction Sandboxing before each unsafe instruction inserts a code which sets the high order bits of the target address to the correct segment identifier Security: Protecting one agent from another

53 cryptography can be used to authenticate credentials a credential means that the receiver will trust the sender access-level monitoring and control uses a security manager which maintains a list of allowed activities (perhaps associated with fees) - can be misleading Security: Protecting agent hosts from agents

54 code verification by the host may try to examine the code of the agent (does not help if the agent is self-modifiable) the host can apply various limitation techniques, e.g. limit the time, or record all agent activities. Security: Protecting agent hosts from agents

55 A static byte code verifier checks for the right magic number in the class file, and performs data flow analysis on each method to test for things such as branches must be within the bounds of the code, or there is no attempt to access variables which are not in the scope JVM performs various run-time checks. Security: Protecting agent hosts from agents

56 Trail obscuring means that the agent constantly modifies its image so it can avoid tracing by hosts Code obfuscation means that the agent is sent together with a kind of interpreter, so the host doesn’t really see the code of this agent. Security: Protecting agent hosts from agents

57 a host can steal information (normal routing) a host can mutate an agent (e.g. rerouting) since the host agent has access to an agent, it is not possible to protect an agent from the agent host (unless a specialized hardware is used) Security: Protecting agent from agents hosts

58 visit only trusted sites and from there use safer mechanisms, such as RPC or stateless agents maintain reliable data that can be used (after the fact) to determine whether the agent has been tampered with divide an agent into components, encrypted each component (when traveling through untrusted sites); update only while on trusted sites Security: Protecting agent from agents hosts

59 maintain a safe migration history and use it against rerouting attacks; or keep audit logs there is new research on encrypting programs which are equivalent to the original programs, are directly executable and produce encrypted output. Security: Protecting agent from agents hosts

60 Network Awareness

61 Network Awareness: Requirements awareness - an ability to monitor resources agility - an ability to react to changes in resources authority - an ability to control the way resources are used on their behalf by support code.

62 Network Awareness: Requirements Resource awareness can be represented by: on-demand monitoring continuous monitoring (specific filters should be used to avoid jitters).

63 Network Awareness: Requirements Authority can give a complete control over resources, with explicit authorization for every use (like in applets) consider a resource violation as an asynchronous event and associate a handler with every restriction on resource.

64 Criticism

65 Sheinderman: “There is a growing danger that agents will be a deception and an empty promise.” “… machines are not people, nor can they ever become so...” “… For me, computers have no more intelligence that a wooden pencil...”


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