Moving Target Defense: A New Age Cybersecurity Strategy?

Moving Target Defense: A New Age Cybersecurity Strategy?

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Advocate
 Last update: November 25, 2023

Moving Target Defense is a strategy that aims to increase complexity and uncertainty for potential attackers by constantly changing the attack surface. It’s like changing the locks on your doors regularly, making it harder for thieves to pick the lock. In the digital world, this might involve regularly changing IP addresses, system identifiers or network configurations. By continually shifting and adjusting, it becomes much more challenging for an attacker to maintain access or cause damage.

Moving Target Defense Examples

1. Randomizing IP Addresses

One common approach in Moving Target Defense is the randomization of IP addresses. It’s similar to constantly changing the location of your house so thieves can’t find it. In the digital realm, the “house” is your system or its individual components, and their “location” is the IP address.

This method involves frequently changing the IP address of a server or system component within the network. By doing this, it confuses and misleads potential cyber attackers who are attempting to infiltrate the network. As soon as they think they’ve pinned down your location, it changes.

The constantly shifting IP address is hard to track and predict. This unpredictability makes it significantly more difficult for an attacker to identify, target, and attack a system. For them, it’s like trying to hit a moving target – which is precisely the idea behind this strategy.

2. Shuffling Application’s Memory Locations

The practice of shuffling an application’s memory locations is another concrete example of Moving Target Defense in action. Analogous to continually reorganizing a room’s layout to confuse thieves, the layout in this case refers to an application’s memory map.

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This method primarily disorients potential cyber attackers seeking to exploit a software bug and infuse a malicious code. Here, applications continuously shift the locations within their memory where they load system libraries or store specific data. In essence, it’s continually changing the ‘map’ that an attacker would need to navigate to harm the system.

With the memory locations constantly changing, figuring out where to strike becomes significantly more challenging. Not only does this strategy disrupt an attacker’s ability to successfully run an exploit, it also adds uncertainty to their exploit’s impact. In other words, the target they’re trying to hit is always on the move, rendering their attack efforts inefficient.

3. Changing Network Configurations

Another example of Moving Target Defense is the frequent and random altering of network configurations. This concept can be likened to regularly changing the locks and security arrangements at your home to keep burglars guessing.

In this technique, network routes and configurations are dynamically rearranged. This means that potential points of entry for intruders are often changing, making it extremely difficult for them to plan and execute a successful breach. Not knowing the layout of the network, an attacker would struggle to find a route through which to infiltrate.

The unpredictable nature of the network caused by frequent changes would leave attackers constantly second-guessing and scrambling for the right approach. The constant state of flux keeps the attackers off-balance, providing an added layer of defense, and making the cyber environment a moving target.


In a world where cyber threats are increasingly advanced and persistent, employing a Moving Target Defense strategy provides an innovative and dynamic layer of protection. By continuously altering the IP addresses, memory locations of applications and network configurations, it places potential attackers on an unstable ground, making it vastly more difficult for them to hit their mark.

Key Takeaways

  • Moving Target Defense is a cybersecurity strategy that routinely changes a system’s attack surface to confuse potential intruders.
  • By regularly changing IP addresses, it makes it difficult for cyber attackers to track and access a system.
  • Shuffling the memory locations of applications can disorient attackers trying to infuse a malicious code into a system.
  • Constantly altering network configurations make unauthorized entry into the network extremely challenging.
  • The unpredictability and constant flux of these variables provides an added layer of defense, reinforcing the security of your system.

Related Questions

1. Why is Moving Target Defense effective?

This strategy is effective because it increases uncertainty and complexity for potential attackers. Since information like IP addresses, memory locations, and network configurations are constantly changing, it’s more difficult for attackers to pinpoint and infiltrate a system.

2. Can Moving Target Defense guarantee total security?

While Moving Target Defense adds a powerful layer of defense, no security approach can guarantee total safety from all threats. It’s crucial to utilize a combination of methods for a robust cybersecurity strategy.

3. How does Moving Target Defense safeguard an application’s memory?

Moving Target Defense safeguards an application’s memory by constantly shifting the locations where system libraries are loaded or specific data is stored. This makes it challenging for an attacker to navigate and exploit the memory layout.

4. What is the potential impact on network performance when implementing Moving Target Defense?

While the dynamic changes improve security, they could also cause occasional performance drops due to the added computational demands. However, the aim is to strike a balance between improved security and operational efficiency.

5. Is Moving Target Defense a standalone solution?

No, Moving Target Defense should not be considered a standalone solution, but as an addition to traditional security measures like firewalls, malware detection, and intrusion detection systems, strengthening the overall security posture.

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional