Machine Hackathon: DARPA Plays Cyber Capture the Flag

A machine hackathon is about to take on a whole new meaning as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DRAPA) prepares to hold it’s first ever machine-only hackathon. With a specific focus on cybersecurity, this cyber version of Capture the Flag (CTF), is DARPA’s way of combating the onset of cyber attacks in real-time. DARPA’s normal approval process is lengthy; once a potential threat is recognized and a software solution has been created, it has to be tested and approved before it can be implemented, and by the time the software fix is ready to be used across the board, another threat looms on their horizon. Some of you might be asking, “What is DARPA and who are their finalists in this cyber challenge?” Not to worry, the short video below provides some background and context. The contest is truly a battle of the minds, as hacker teams try their hand at reverse-engineering software to seek out and find weakness in the system and fix those holes while attacking other machines at the same time. Those teams that are successful in both attacking and fixing holes capture the digital flag and win points in the ongoing process. This competition will take place in conjunction with the annual DEFCON, the longest running annual hacker competition. Before we start thinking that we’re living a modernized version of “Hackers,” there are a few more things to know. First, this is really a battle of software. The final teams were given a DARPA computer to code and must create a software platform to interact with the DARPA database. Once the competition begins, the teams will not be able to intervene if their software fails to see a weakness or is attacked by another team. The goal is to create an artificial intelligence (AI) software that is capable of responding in real-time to potential threats and weakness within its databases.   Wired has added this contest to their radar, saying, “DARPA has gone full Tron. It might feel more like a video game, than a hacking contest, as DARPA has arranged for a visual diagram to be displayed on the big screen, that will show each attack and from what machine the attack came from.” Whether you believe Wired or the other tech experts, this type of machine AI is hoping to turn the tables on the war on cyber safety. Instead of waiting for an attack to strike, DARPA’s intuitive software will attempt to seek out weakness autonomously giving the Defense Department the added edge it needs to prevent leaks in the system. This is another intriguing example of how machine learning is becoming integrated into so many facets of the world at-large. Whether you make your way to Las Vegas to witness the DARPA’s version of CTF or not, that fact is we continue to add more M2M and IoT solutions to our daily lives. It’s only natural we find new ways to have machines assist us.

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