DARPA invites white hats to help with U.S. cyber defense

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is asking the government to ramp up its cyber research funding from $120 million to $208 million for 2012, and in the coming years aims to spend a greater part of its budget on cyber research than ever before, reports Reuters.

“We need more and better options. We will not prevail by throwing bodies or buildings at the challenges of cyberspace. Our assessment argues that we are capability limited, both offensively and defensively. We need to fix that,” said DARPA’s Director Regina Dugan to the crowd counting some 700 academics, professionals and “visionary hackers” at the first-ever DARPA Cyber Colloquium held on Monday.

She pointed out that the current approach to the cybersecurity problem – piling layers of security on top of existing architecture – might work for now but it’s not going to be effective for long. Even now, the development of security solutions is expensive and time-consuming, she said. They contain hundreds of thousands – and some even millions – of lines of codes, while typical malware consists of an average 125 lines.

Acknowledging the dynamic nature of advances in cyberspace, Dugan expressed DARPA’s desire to welcome and collaborate with technical experts at unprecedented levels.

According to Computerworld, the agency has already established a team of cybersecurity professionals from the private, education and non-profit sectors that are working together with government-employed experts on creating technologies and techniques to be used to defend the country’s computer systems from attacks.

Among those experts are former lead Snort developer and Sourcefire founder Dan Roelker, L0phtCrack inventor Peiter “Mudge” Zatko and former Microsoft anit-malware researcher Tim Fraser. Each of them works on an different aspect of DARPA’s cyber defense effort – from fast-tracking security technologies that need to be used by the military to automating security analysis and response.

“DARPA’s role in the creation of the Internet means we were party to the intense opportunities it created and share in the intense responsibility of protecting it. Our responsibility is to acknowledge and prepare to protect the Nation in this new environment,” concluded Dugan.

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