DARPA Competition Pushes Development of Security Automation

3a The U.S. Defense Research Organization (DARPA) has organized a two-year competition for computer security experts to develop automated security systems designed to defend against digital attacks as they are happening. DARPA is the agency responsible for the developing advanced technologies used by the military.

The competition, The Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC), will hold its finale at DEF CON in 2016. The competition was launched last October and the 35 entrants are competing for a $2 million prize. Second place finishers will receive a $1 million prize, while third place finishers will take home $750,000.

There are two tracks associated with the competition. One is an "open track" that is for the self-funded teams. The other track, known as the "Proposal Track," is for invited teams and consists of open competitions.

"[The Proposal Track] approach requires that competitors reverse engineer software created by challenge organizers and locate and heal its hidden weaknesses in a live network competition," DARPA stated.

Entrants will have 24 months to build their automated systems before traveling to Las Vegas to compete in a head-to-head style competition. DARPA is working so that viewers will be able to watch the event live over the Internet.

"Todays security methods involve experts working with computerized systems to identify attacks, craft corrective patches and signatures and distribute those corrective to users everywhere - a process that can take months from the time an attack is first launched," Mike Walker, DARPA program manager, said in an article on ThreatPost.com. "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." Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 3.31.34 PM

The competition hopes to encourage the public and private sectors to work together in new ways.  As of June 3, 35 teams from around the world have registered with DARPA.  These teams are a mix of industry and academia and will receive seed funding from DARPA.

"Today, our time to patch a newly discovered security flaw is measured in days," Walker explained. "Through automatic recognition and remediation of software flaws, the term for a new cyberattack may change from zero-day to zero-second."

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