The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will hold its open-to-the-public DEF CON cyber defense competition next month in Las Vegas, Nevada.
DEF CON is one of the world’s largest and most venerable annual hacker conferences. During the event, computer programs development by seven teams will vie for a large prize as they compete in the first automated game of capture the flag, which aims to display the competitor’s abilities in intrusion and defense acumen.
“Unlike the case with self-driving cars, where the path to full autonomy, while challenging, is now just a matter of technological advances, we still don’t know if autonomy involving the kind of reasoning that’s required for cyber defense makes conceptual sense,” Mike Walker, program manager at DARPA, said. “We certainly don’t expect any machine to win against humans at DEF CON this year. But at a minimum we’ll learn a lot from seeing how the systems fare against each other, and if we can even provide a clear proof of concept for autonomous cyber defense, that would be revolutionary. In the same way that the Wright brothers’ first flight didn’t go very far but launched a chain of events that quickly made the world a much smaller place, a convincing demonstration that automated cyber defense is truly doable would be a major paradigm shift, and would speed the day when networked attackers no longer have the inherent advantage they enjoy today.”
The winning team will have the opportunity to compete against the world’s best human hackers in their capture the flag competition the following day.