Concept of Mobile Agent-Based Electronic Marketplace – Safety Measures

Concept of Mobile Agent-Based Electronic Marketplace – Safety Measures

Ahmed Patel
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-611-7.ch025
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In mobile agent-based systems, the use of mobile agents in pervasive ubiquitous electronic marketplace (e-marketplace) environment requires very well protected, secure and safe infrastructure and networking services, if they are to be trusted. The important issues and functions of security, privacy, trust and audit complement the basic requirements of mobile agent-based systems. These must support e-marketplace trading in today’s computing arena facilitated and driven by the Web, Internet and ad hoc networks. In this chapter, the concept and application of security, privacy, trust, and audit for normal business and digital forensics purposes under the single term safety measures are presented. These measures are the key drivers and principles of secure mobile agents for mobile agent based environments.
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Basic Definitions And Concepts Of Mobile Agents

A software agent is a piece of software that executes on behalf of a program enacting the role of a process or end-user program. Mobile code is software downloaded from remote systems via a network and executed on a local system without explicit installation or execution by the recipient. MAs are specific incarnations of software agents and mobile code paradigms. They have great autonomy and different levels of intelligence as to what and how they can do their work. They are programs that can migrate from host to host across multiple platforms via networks when and where they choose. Their intermediate execution state is saved and transported to the new host where it is restored and the program continues running from the place where it paused.

Intelligent Agents (IAs) can handle dedicated but complex tasks on behalf of their users without repeatedly interacting with them to accomplish a task because they effectively communicate with other agents, users and service platforms against a given profile, which makes them highly intelligent and autonomous in the way they go about doing their work (Wooldridge & Jennings, 1995). A good example is a Web-based search agent that is capable of retrieving desired e-market information on behalf of the user according to his/her intended profile. The MA is instructed what to look for, and then dispatched to carry out the search and return with the information. This level of intelligent knowledge operation implies that agents can be implemented and managed to operate in any way one wants, albeit either legitimately or illegitimately. Those that operate illegally are a threat.

IAs derive their smartness by self-acquired learning through a combinations of interactions with other collaborating learning and/or collaborating agents with a common purpose, and interface and interworking agents (Nwana, 1996) as shown in Figure 1. These IAs are sometimes termed “Intelligent multi-Mobile Agents (IMAs), which effectively make them smart MAs. For the purpose of the material addressed in this chapter, MA, IA, IMA are the same things.

Figure 1.

Primary Dimensions of Attributes for Deriving Smart Intelligent Agents


For such interworking and interoperability to be successful, there needs to be a minimum set of MA norms or guidelines that provide at least:

  • A commonly agreed set of rules (protocols with their syntax and semantics and execution conditions) by which MAs can communicate with each other so that they can exchange information, negotiate services, or delegate responsibilities as tasks with given functions.

  • A unique way to identify MAs through globally unique name assignments.

  • Set of facilities for MAs to locate each other through directory and domain name services.

  • A means for MAs to access and exchange information between standard and non-standard systems through translations and transformations, or legacy systems through backward compatibility.

  • A set of rules for MAs migrating from one platform to another or from one host to another.

  • A common means for MAs to interact with end-users through adaptable user-friendly human interaction interfaces.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile Agent: is a software agent referred to as mobile code with the ability to move itself from one computing environment to another, including its execution state and data set, to continue executing there from where it last left off.

Intelligent Agent: Software agent with the ability to infer, acquires a specific domain knowledge and able to learn and reason to make smart decision.

Security: To safe guard all asserts and provide the necessary function and features to make security services and mechanisms available for use by agents and users.

Digital forensics: The capability of performing post-activity investigation analysis and audit trails for the purpose of prosecuting illegitimate or criminal users, as well as providing the necessary mechanisms to curtail illegal activities by agents and users in pre-emptive mode.

E-marketplace: A virtual space which provides the infrastructure services for buyers and sellers to meet and conduct business transactions using mobile agent systems.

E-payment: Making payments electronically through any available means like digi-cash, credit card and other forms of electronic fund transfers.

Privacy: To provide the necessary services, mechanisms and protocols for making legitimate agents and users anonymous, whilst ensuring that illegitimate agents and users are eliminated and/or exposed.

Auditing: The function of keeping a complete trail of actions, events, data and information flows for the purpose of ensuring legitimacy, examination or investigation.

Safety measures: comprising of all the functions of security, privacy, trust, secure e-payment schemes, audit and digital forensics couched in a single term called safety measures.

Agent management: The activities of configuring, monitoring, administering and handling agent communications, interactions, collaborations and resource usage in a heterogeneous mobile agent system.

Agent: A software entity which can perform tasks on behalf of an end-user autonomously, capable of making independent decisions, and taking actions to satisfy a set of internally defined goals based upon its perception and interactions within the mobile agent environment.

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