AI benefits/risks, Generative AI, Black Hat

DARPA sponsors competition for AI innovation and cybersecurity

Perri Adams

LAS VEGAS — The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) on Wednesday issued a challenge to AI experts, software developers and security pros to take part in the AI Cyber Challenge (AIxCC), a two-year competition that aims to drive AI innovation and create a new generation of AI-based cybersecurity tools.

DARPA made the announcement at Black Hat USA 2023, pointing out that as software makes modern life possible and drives productivity, it also creates an expanding attack surface for malicious threat actors.

This attack surface includes critical infrastructure, which DARPA experts say has become especially vulnerable to cyberattacks given the lack of tools capable of securing systems at scale. Recent years have exposed the threats posed to society by malicious cyber actors exploiting critical infrastructure and have made plain the daunting attack surface cyber defenders are tasked to protect.

“AIxCC represents a first-of-its-kind collaboration between top AI companies, led by DARPA, to create AI-driven systems to help address one of society’s greatest challenges: cybersecurity,” Perri Adams, DARPA’s AIxCC program manager told Black Hat attendees this morning. “Cybersecurity is always a race between offense and defense, and there’s no silver bullet. … But there’s a promising path to keep defenses one step ahead. Big gains in AI have the potential to secure our code. … AI is not enough. We need a force multiplier — something that brings top thinkers together in one room.” 

Toward that end, Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI will collaborate with DARPA to help competitors develop innovative new cybersecurity systems. The Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF), a project of the Linux Foundation, will serve as a challenge advisor to guide teams in creating AI systems capable of addressing vital cybersecurity issues, such as the security of critical infrastructure and software supply chains. 

The AIxCC competitions will be held next year at DEF CON, with additional events at Black Hat USA. AIxCC will consist of two phases: the semifinal phase and the final phase. The semifinal competition will run in 2024 and the final competition will be held the following year.

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