DARPA: Autonomous Bug-Hunting Bots Will Lead to Improved Cybersecurity

August 7, 2016

Cheryl Pellerin

This week, seven teams whose cyber reasoning bots played in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Cyber Grand Challenge proved that machines by themselves could find and fix software safety problems in a simplified version of the code used everywhere, every day.

The world’s first all-machine hacking tournament wasn’t the answer to all cybersecurity problems, DARPA officials said, but it was a big step forward in a technical area where the Defense Department’s research arm aims to stir up a revolution.

The seven finalist teams represented an array of communities -- academic pioneers from the field, security industry powerhouses and veterans of the capture-the-flag circuit. Each designed an innovative system that proved its skills during the CGC.

The competition played out in a parallel digital universe, as DARPA Program Manager Mike Walker recently characterized the stage holding 15 chilled air-gapped supercomputers running special software whose products were keenly observed by eight black-and-white-shirted highly expert referees.

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