It’ll Be Brains vs. Bots in Vegas Cyberwar Sponsored by the Pentagon

From NextGov:

The Pentagon agency that brought you robotic cars will bring robotic hackers to a Vegas resort next month.

The $2 million Cyber Grand Challenge, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will pit machines against insecure software to pierce the holes — and fix ’em. 

The entire event will be shown on screens in the Paris Las Vegas Hotel’s 5,000-person auditorium while sportscasters narrate the competition, according to DARPA organizers. The tournament will run in conjunction with an annual Vegas hacker conference called DEFCON. 

The hope is that computers will be able to discover and patch bugs, like the Heartbleed vulnerability, in any commercial software, including the variety that goes into the F-35, organizers say.

The top seven teams from a 2-year-long contest will let their computers run wild at a daylong Capture the Flag-style tournament of code Aug. 4. Competitors range from Raytheon contractors to former University of California, Santa Barbara students now flung all over the world.

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Today, it can take about 312 days to discover a vulnerability in software already out on the market, according to the Pentagon.

The aim of the competition is to “bring that entire discovery-comprehension-patch-response timeline down from a year to minutes or seconds,” said Mike Walker, DARPA program manager for the challenge. 

Admittedly, the nature of automated cybersecurity does not lend itself to the visual spectacle of robocar “Stanley” navigating the Mojave Desert with no one behind the steering wheel during a 2005 DARPA self-driving car challenge. 

“Autonomy in the domain of vehicles is easy to see and grasp,” Walker told reporters on Wednesday. “Bringing autonomy to the cyber domain is harder to see because it happens inside the logic and memory of networked computers, and it’s an …

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