The Department of Defense is looking for a few good hackers

A cybersecurity competition is designed to highlight the vulnerabilities of “smart” devices.

The Department of Defense is looking for a few good hackers

By Live Science July 8 at 8:00 AM

The Defense Department is hosting a huge hacking competition next month to highlight vulnerabilities in the world’s growing network of “smart” devices — what is sometimes called the Internet of things.

The contest, hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is designed to pit machine against machine in what DARPA calls the “world’s first automated network defense tournament.”

Smart televisions, wearable technologies and home appliances that can be connected to the Internet aren’t always designed with cybersecurity in mind. More important, critical connected infrastructure such as traffic lights, utility systems and power grids may be susceptible to cyberattacks, according to DARPA.

To address these weaknesses, it may be necessary to automate the process of identifying and fixing software vulnerabilities, but the machines making the fixes must perform as well as human experts, DARPA officials said.

“With the growth of the Internet of things, cybersecurity needs to evolve to a largely automated, scalable process,” Rick Weiss, DARPA’s director of strategic communications, wrote in an email.

The Cyber Grand Challenge, which precedes the 24th DEF CON hacker convention in Las Vegas, will follow the format of a familiar computer security game, “Capture the Flag.”

The game is usually played by teams of humans racing to find a file protected on the other team’s network. In this case, programmers will step back and watch their machines autonomously compete against one another. Each of the seven finalists has been awarded $750,000 to prepare for the event, and the teams will vie for a share of nearly $4 million in prize money.

The winning team will go on to pit its machine against humans in a “Capture the Flag” event the following day, DARPA officials said.

Loading Conversation