Monday, April 17, 2017

The Emerging Technology that Attacks and Fixes Software


Emerging technologies is sort of the primary mission of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. In words of the agency itself, that mission is “to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security”(DARPA, 2015a, pg 1). Recent major pushes to advance technologies have occurred in the form of so-called DARPA Grand Challenges. The Grand Challenge plan began with Self-Driving cars in 2004/2005, even though no car was able to finish. (Borgolte, 2016) A second Grand Challenge supported the growth of Robot research. Thirteen years later we are seeing significant progress toward commercial self-driving cars. Thus, the technologies being driven by DARPA Grand Challenges definitely qualify as emerging technology.

This past August I was an attendee at DEFCON 24 at Paris/Bally’s in Las Vegas. (DEF CON 24 Hacking Conference, 2016) This allowed me the opportunity to sit in attendance at the DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge Final Event. A gigantic ballroom was filled with an audience facing a stage with eight supercomputer systems, the finalists of a two year Grand Challenge seeking to bolster the development of automated systems that can replace human vulnerability analysts. Just like self-driving cars allows a computer to replace a human driver with human reflexes and human errors, the systems running on those supercomputers could identify and fix exploitable weaknesses at computer speed with unwavering attention. Following the timeline from the self-driving car Challenge, 2032 could see commercial offerings which make human software analysis a thing of the past. Compilers could upload newly created binaries to a server for analysis and then download a report with vulnerabilities found and a vulnerability proof of concept.

The Emerging Technology that Attacks and Fixes Software

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