American secret squirrel military research outfit DARPA has launched a competition to find the autonomous cyber-defence systems of the future.
More than 30 teams will participate in the Cyber Grand Challenge, which is described as a "first of its kind tournament" designed to kickstart the development of automated security defenders.
The challenge comes a time when cyber-security is on the lips of pretty much everyone thanks to the GameoverZeuS trojan and Cryptolocker ransomware.
Competitors will come from the worlds of academia and industry. They hope to devise a system which can defend against external threats without requiring the intervention of a security expert. Sadly, these cyber-supermen only swoop in when it's too late, fixing vulnerabilities after attackers have already exploited them, DARPA said.
It fears that digital yobs will be able to cause increasing amounts of damage as the Internet of Stuff causes our homes and vehicles to become ever more networked.
“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 Mike Walker, DARPA program manager. “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 Cyber Grand Challenge will "test the wits of machines, not experts" and will follow a capture the flag format, requiring competitors to find and fix weaknesses in software.
Similar competitions have been held at DEF CON for more than two decades, but DARPA claim this is the first time that all the competitors will be computers. The final will be held at the Las Vegas DEF CON Conference in 2016.
Heats will be fought over the next two years and it is hoped they will "not only accelerate the development of capable, automated network defense systems, but also encourage the diverse communities now working on computer and network security issues in the public and private sectors to work together in new ways".
So far, 35 teams have registered for the competition. ®