In 2005 the United States Department of Defense's research arm, DARPA, presented a $2 million "Grand Challenge" to encourage development of a driverless car that could complete a seven-plus mile course. The top-performing car came from a team from Stanford University whose leader is now head of Google's driverless car program. Now, less than a decade later, the biggest car companies in the world have plans to roll out driverless cars by 2020 and we're already seeing semi-autonomous features in cars.
DARPA is hoping its latest "Grand Challenge" can have a similar impact, this time in the cyber world.
The new $2 million challenge seeks to attract top computer security experts to create automated systems that can identify vulnerabilities, create patches and apply them to computers on a network. If successful, the unmanned, self-patching software could have impressive impacts on computer security.
"Today, our time to patch a newly discovered security flaw is measured in days," said Mike Walker, a DARPA program manager. "Through automatic recognition and remediation of software flaws, the term for a new cyber attack may change from zero-day to zero-second."
Teams with successful automated systems will be invited to participate in a tournament against other teams in 2016 to test how "capably their systems could protect hosts, scan the network for vulnerabilities and maintain the correct function of software."