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Chapter 17. Agent Safety and Security

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Automobiles have proven to be a wonderful invention, and people all over the world depend on them. But people also recognize that cars used improperly can cause injuries. Cars can also serve as hiding places for car bombs. Its hard to imagine a software agent that could cause physical harm to anyone -- its only software, after all. But what if that software is controlling an electrical appliance, say a coffee maker Could a control failure cause the coffee maker to overheat and start a fire We hope not the coffee maker should in any case have passed an Underwriters Laboratory test to assure that it wont start a fire even if it fails catastrophically. Its easy to imagine a software agent that damages data stored in computers, however usually, its called a virus. Of course, agents are supposed to be friendly and useful, not malicious and destructive. And they presumably operate in a constrained environment of some sort. But to be useful, an agent must be able to operate flexibly and dynamically it may, for example, need to determine where to go next in search of some particular piece of data. It may need to store results or to send messages back to its initiator. It certainly will require some computing cycles on every site it visits. We use the term applet for agents that are imported from a remote site for strictly local execution agent encompasses both applets and mobile agents.

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  • Computer Systems Management and Standards

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