Today is the grand finals of DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC), where seven teams pit their technology against each other at the largest annual hacker conference in the world – DEF CON 24 – in Las Vegas. And the team with the best autonomous security tech will win $2 million.
The field of cybersecurity is currently dominated by human experts, who identify and remediate new flaws in security protocols and emerging threats as they emerge. However, discovering a new security flaw and successfully deploying a solution can take up to a year. Solving this slow reaction cycle is why DARPA created this challenge.
The CGC seeks to automate this cyber defense process, fielding the first generation of machines that can discover, prove and fix software flaws in real-time, without any assistance. If successful, the speed of autonomy could someday blunt the structural advantages of cyber offense.
Contests and challenges at DEF CON include lockpicking, robot wars, scavenger hunts and Capture the Flag (CTF) – CTF being among the more popular of these contests.
CTF contests have been exclusive to human competitors. This is the first time autonomous systems try to compromise, crash or take over an opponents system while actively setting up defenses for their own in this format.
We spoke to team TECHx, one of the seven competitors, about their goals and challenges at the event, as well as what they hope to learn in developing these solutions.
The team is a collaboration between cybersecurity developer GrammaTech and the University of Virginia, which co-developed PEASOUP (Preventing Exploits Against Software of Uncertain Provenance). PEASOUP is a software hardening technology that adds a layer of policy-driven protocols that enable software to ‘sense’ that it is being threatened and activate defensive measures.
GrammaTech told TNW that research in this area is crucial for understanding and developing security systems that allow us to create stable and robust security solutions. These autonomous solutions help enable the further development of the Internet of Things, – enabling technologies fight against malicious agents.
Events like the CGC are vital and foundational in helping the industry interact, exchange ideas and learn about the challenges we face in helping technology progress.
If you’re a fan of ‘Hacking and Patching’ contests, tune in to the CGC’s live stream here.
You can also check out the competing teams and their stories, and if you happen to be nearby the Paris Hotel and Conference Center in Las Vegas, you can walk right in. No registration, tickets, or attendance fees are required!