- Seven high-performance computers competed for a $2 million first place prize in a first of its kind, live all-day hacking contest in Las Vegas Thursday. During the competition, computers duked it out against one another, without human intervention. In the end, "Mayhem" from Pittsburgh-based ForAllSecure took home the title.
- The event was the first all-computer Capture the Flag tournament and was put on by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), which conducts advanced research for the Department of Defense.
- Each team was composed of white hat hackers, academics and private-sector cyber systems experts.
The competition was the culmination of a three-year project by DARPA. The challenge required systems to be fully automated, requiring software programs to defend and repair networks without any human intervention.
Known as the Cyber Grand Challenge, the goal of the contest was to determine whether a completely machine-based system could speed up the normally slow, human-based process of finding and fixing network vulnerabilities. Today’s slow processes often enable more damage to done to a network, while a fast, machine-based process could potentially make reaction times much faster.
The results of the competition show how far computers have come in their cyber-reasoning capabilities. These types of systems may become what companies search for when looking to defend internal networks. Rather than tasking humans to find and stop flaws, machines can automatically do the work.
The winning team also has the option to enter Mayhem into the DEF CON Capture the Flag competition for human teams taking place at the conference. But the software is not expected to do well, because human competitors are still considered more intuitive and strategic, according to a Network World report.