The National Law Forum

The Blog of the The National Law Review

U.S., U.K. Governments Seek Cyber Innovations from Private Sector

The private sector is likely to produce critical cyber innovations—at least, that is what the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (“DARPA”) and the U.K. Centre for Defence Enterprise (“CDE”) would like to see.

In the United States, although the internet may have been invented at DARPA, DARPA is turning to a private sector competition to protect it.  In March 2014, DARPA solicited a “Cyber Security Grand Challenge”: an open competition to devise automated security systems that can defend against cyberattacks as fast as they are launched.  DARPA pitched the Grand Challenge as a “first of its kind,” “capture the flag”-style competition for computer security experts in academia, industry, and the broader security community.  Over 100 teams registered to compete.  Some likely saw the cash prizes—$2 million for first place, $1 million for second, and $750,000 for third—as nominal incentives compared to the value of shaping future cybersecurity efforts.  On July 8, 2015, DARPA announced its selection of seven finalists for the final round of the competition.  The finalists include computer security experts from industry, start-up incubators, and academia.

Not one of DARPA’s Grand Challenge finalists?  Take heart: DARPA is said to be developing technology that would allow spectators to watch the final contest in real time.  Or better yet, look to the United Kingdom, where the CDE has an open competition seeking “novel approaches to human interaction with cyberspace to increase military situational awareness.”  CDE is asking for “revolutionary approaches” to “rapidly convey” cyberspace information, events, and courses of action to military commanders, analysts, and decision-makers.  Just as DARPA officials acknowledged the limitations of existing cybersecurity strategy and technology, CDE officials have recognized that “the traditional human-computer interface” is inadequate for “current military information processing and sense-making in the cyber domain.”  Up to £500,000 in research funding will be awarded.  A July 9, 2015 presentation given by CDE is available online; slides from a July 16, 2015 webinar soon could be available, as well.  The competition closes on September 3, 2015.  Proposals must be submitted through CDE’s online portal.

© 2015 Covington & Burling LLP

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