DARPA Announces Cyber Grand Challenge

DARPA Announces Cyber Grand Challenge: First-of-its-kind cyber defense tournament seeks to drive automation revolution in information security

What if computers had a “check engine” light that could indicate new, novel security problems? What if computers could go one step further and heal security problems before they happen?

To find out, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) intends to hold the Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC)—the first-ever tournament for fully automatic network defense systems. DARPA envisions teams creating automated systems that would compete against each other to evaluate software, test for vulnerabilities, generate security patches and apply them to protected computers on a network. To succeed, competitors must bridge the expert gap between security software and cutting-edge program analysis research. The winning team would receive a cash prize of $2 million.

“DARPA’s series of vehicle Grand Challenges were the dawn of the self-driving car revolution,” said Mike Walker, DARPA program manager. “With the Cyber Grand Challenge, we intend a similar revolution for information security. Today, our time to patch a newly discovered security flaw is measured in days. Through automatic recognition and remediation of software flaws, the term for a new cyber attack may change from zero-day to zero-second.”

Highly trained experts capable of reasoning about software vulnerabilities, threats and malware power modern network defense. These experts compete regularly on a global “Capture the Flag” tournament circuit, improving their skills and measuring excellence through head-to-head competition. Drawing on the best traditions of expert computer security competitions, DARPA aims to challenge unmanned systems to compete against each other in a real-time tournament for the first time.

“The growth trends we’ve seen in cyber attacks and malware point to a future where automation must be developed to assist IT security analysts,” said Dan Kaufman, director of DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, which oversees the Challenge.