The Battle Against Cybercrime

The Battle Against Cybercrime

The Battle Against Cybercrime

Justin Lavelle
August 8, 2016

The Cyber Grand Challenge, the first all-computer cyber defense tournament, recently came to an exciting conclusion. Seven computers competed in Las Vegas to autonomously defend their systems from attacks and point out flaws without human intervention.

The challenge was an effort by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, to train computers to be strong enough to protect themselves against hackers.

Today, the only way to detect unknown flaws in software is for a human to find and fix them. The goal behind the event was to determine if it’s possible for an autonomous program to find security vulnerabilities that hackers can use to attack a computer.

**The Importance of Cyber Security **

On average, flaws in software go unnoticed for around 312 days. The only way to fix computer viruses and malware is for a human to meticulously search for flaws in operating systems and programs. Instead of taking almost a year to detect a flaw, it’s possible it may soon only take a matter of seconds. If a computer can find flaws quickly, they can’t be exploited by hackers later.

The challenge started in 2013 when DARPA opened up a track for teams to submit proposals and receive initial funding to compete. It was also open to anyone who wanted to enter their own intellectual property without DARPA funding. A qualifier stage ran from 2014 to 2015, leaving seven finalists to compete on August 4th for a grand prize of $2 million.

**The Competitors **

The competitors were primarily from universities and commercial tech companies. While this circuit of competitive computer hackers are experts in finding deep flaws in software quickly, the ultimate hacker may soon be a machine.

The teams were given DARPA-constructed computers that they must program for the machines to “comprehend the language of the software, author the logic for that software, write their own network clients… and arrive at the path of the new vulnerabilities entirely on their own,” according to program manager for the CGC, Mike Walker. Once the challenge started, human hands left the keyboard and it was up to the computers to scan themselves and the other systems for problems.

And the Winner is…

In the end, it was a team from Carnegie Mellon University named ForAllSecure who won the event with their computer, Mayhem.

The event proved that the battle against illegal hackers is far from lost. “I’m enormously gratified that we achieved CGC’s primary goal, which was to provide clear proof of principle that machine-speed, scalable cyber defense is indeed possible,” said Walker.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.