DARPA Director Discusses Cyber Security Challenges
DARPA Director Discusses
Cyber Security Challenges
By Jim Garamone, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Fort Meade, Maryland – (DoD
News) – October 1, 2014 – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is
working on new ways to protect information and systems that use the Internet,
said Arati Prabhakar, the agency’s director.
The current mode of protection – “patch and pray” – really
doesn’t work anymore, Prabhakar told the Washington Post’s Cybersecurity Summit
DARPA is working to improve cyber security, and Prabhakar
discussed the historical background as National Cyber Security Awareness Month
The Agency’s early days
The agency formed after the Soviet Union shocked the world
with the launch of the world’s first satellite in 1957. Many Americans believed
the United States had lost the space race and Soviet domination of space
threatened the existence of the free world.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower created DARPA in response to
this threat. The agency mission was not to develop the next technology, but to
leap ahead to a whole new generation of technology.
And the agency has been successful. DARPA developed what
became the Internet and the first information began flowing on it in 1969. The
Pentagon agency has been working on cyber security ever since.
One of the agency’s projects is to build software that is not
hackable. “What that means is there is a mathematical proof that this particular
function can’t be hacked from a pathway that wasn’t intended,” Prabhakar said in
response to a reporter’s question. “That won’t solve the entire problem, but it
might make it more manageable.”
The idea, she said, is to reduce the attack surface hackers
DARPA is also plumbing the dark depths of the Internet to
find those who want to do harm. “You start by creating a different way to look
at this vast information environment,” she said. A current project was based on
the thesis that law enforcement might find a way to detect hidden networks that
relate with hidden trafficking.
“We worked with law enforcement and found that the way they
looked at the information space was the same way you or I would look at it,” she
said. “You know: a Google search, a single-threaded walk through this
DARPA tools dig deep holes through the Web to find patterns
and linkages among sites.
“We were able to find a set of phone numbers that were very
heavily linked to each other in back page ads where the sex trade is advertised,”
she said. The agency gave 600 phone numbers to law enforcement, and they found
“466 numbers that tied to criminal violations and they also found numbers that
tied to fund transfers in the region around North Korea and they are working to
find a human trafficking network.”
New moon shot
One of the hardest challenges for cyber is maintaining web
security while the information explosion continues. There are 3 billion people
already on the Internet, and that will only increase, Prabhakar said. She feels
the same pressure for solutions as the DARPA director who helped with the moon
shot in the 1960s.
“The moon shot for cyber security, in my view, is to find
techniques that scale faster than the explosion in information,” she said.
It will not be a silver bullet, she said, but a combination
of advancements where the cyber security problem will be manageable.
This movement is already underway, Prabhakar said. “The most
critical systems get the most critical focused attention, whether in DoD or
throughout our economy. It is incredibly challenging technically and very
challenging from a practical and policy perspective.”
Prabhakar noted security would be absolute if the Internet
was sealed off and only select people could use it.
“The power of information technology, and the reason we put
up with all these problems, is that it is phenomenally capable for all the
things that change how we live and how we work and how create national security,”
she said. “You don’t want to cut out any of that capability off in the process
of building cyber security.”
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