DARPA woos hackers to improve military tech

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says it's prepared to dish out funds to hackers who can help it with cybersecurity.

Unveiled at the Black Hat security conference by DARPA's program manager for the information innovation office Peiter Zatko - a one-time hacker known as Mudge - the plan is to fund between 20 and 100 projects a year.

Significantly, DARPA's promising to cut red tape and act quickly, deciding whether or not to approve a project within ten days of receipt. Contracts will be awarded on a fixed-price basis; there's no word about how much is to be invested into the profgram overall.

The Cyber Fast Track program is open to anybody. "It's time to start funding hacker spaces, labs, and boutique security companies to make it easier to compete with large government contractors," said Zatko.

"The way government is set up, it's almost impossible for the small businesses, the researchers, the hackers, to get money for research without giving up intellectual property or being purchased and having their company gutted."

Anything that could help the military will be considered, from bug-hunting exercises to the development of cheap unmanned aerial vehicles. DARPA wants projects that can be carried out quickly - within 12 months.

"Of particular interest are efforts with the potential to reduce attack surface areas, reverse current asymmetries, or that are strategic, rather than tactical in nature," says DARPA.

"Proposed technologies may be hardware, software, or any combination thereof. Efforts developing proofs of concept or finished products are also of particular interest."

The website is here.