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DARPA launches cyber challenge

Jun. 4, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By MICHAEL PECK   |   Comments
DPU Soldiers conduct cyber defense exercise
Soldiers from the Fairfax-based Data Processing Unit conduct a computer network defense exercise. (Cotton Puryear)

DARPA has kicked off its first Cyber Grand Challenge, as 35 teams compete to find better methods of cybersecurity.

The two-year 2016 Grand Challenge is aimed at creating automated cyber defenses that can automatically detect and fix cyber weaknesses before attackers can exploit them.

“Today’s security methods involve experts working with computerized systems to identify attacks, craft corrective patches and signatures and distribute those correctives to users everywhere—a process that can take months from the time an attack is first launched,” said DARPA program manager Mike Walker in an agency news release. “The only effective approach to defending against today’s ever-increasing volume and diversity of attacks is to shift to fully automated systems capable of discovering and neutralizing attacks instantly.”

The Challenge is organized as a “capture the flag” competition, which requires competitors to reverse engineer software created by DARPA, and then locate and fix its hidden weaknesses in a live network competition. Most of the teams are self-funded, but a few have been invited and partially supported by DARPA.

DARPA kicked off the competition by releasing DECREE, which the agency describes as an "open-source extension built atop the Linux operating system. Constructed from the ground up as a platform for operating small, isolated software test samples—and incompatible with any other software in the world—DECREE aims to provide a safe research and experimentation environment for the Cyber Grand Challenge."

The final competition of the 2016 Grand Challenge will be held in conjunction with the DEF CON cybersecurity conference. "The co-location of those two events means the first all-computer capture-the-flag competition would occur alongside the conference that has hosted and defined the capture-the-flag competition format for the past 22 years," DARPA said.

Custom data visualization technology is under development for the Grand Challenge final tournament that will be held at the conference, said DARPA. The system would "make it easy for spectators—both a live audience at the conference and anyone watching the event’s video stream worldwide—to follow the action."

Get more insight into the changing world of cybersecurity at a free breakfast event on June 11, titled “The Next Chapter in Cybersecurity.” With DHS’s John Streufert providing a keynote address, the event focuses on CDM and ICAM. Click here to register.

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