Sometimes, throwing money at problems works. As the Pentagon continues to struggle with cybersecurity, its sci-fi-like R&D department, DARPA, is ready to start writing cheques. The agency just announced a competition to build a "fully automated cyber defence system". The grand prize? $US2 million.
The so-called "Cyber Grand Challenge" will take place over the next three years, which seems like plenty of time to write a few lines of code. But DARPA's not just asking for any old cyber defence system. They want one "with reasoning abilities exceeding those of human experts" that "will create its own knowledge". They want it to deflect cyberattacks, not in a matter of days — which is how the Pentagon currently works — but in a matter of hours or even seconds. That's profoundly difficult.
The notion of a competition like this seems kind of ridiculous at first — a US government agency staging a giant capture the flag-style challenge for a seven-figure cash prize. This model has actually been insanely effective in the past though. The Cyber Grand Challenge is actually modelled after the 2004 competition to build a self-driving car. Though none of the cars even finished the 11km course that year, the Stanford team that won the following year went on to build Google's famous robo-car. The very scary but also awesome Atlas robot went through a similar process too.
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