Biden admin launches hacking challenge to use A.I. for cybersecurity

on Aug9
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President Joe Biden gives remarks on Artificial Intelligence in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on July 21, 2023 in Washington, DC.

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Hackers will have the chance to compete for millions of dollars in prizes by using artificial intelligence to protect critical U.S. infrastructure from cybersecurity risks, the Biden administration announced Wednesday.

The AI Cyber Challenge will offer nearly $20 million in prizes and includes collaboration from leading AI companies Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI, who will make their technology available for the competition. The challenge was announced at the Black Hat USA hacking conference in Las Vegas.

A qualifying event will be held in the spring, where up to 20 top-scoring teams will be chosen to advance to the semifinal competition at DEF CON 2024, a cybersecurity conference. Up to five of those teams will win $2 million each and advance to the final at DEF CON 2025. The top three teams will be eligible for additional prizes, including a top prize of $4 million for the team that “best secures vital software,” according to a press release.

Competitors will be asked to open source their systems so that their solutions can be used widely. The Linux Foundation’s Open Source Security Foundation is also serving as an advisor on the challenge.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is running the competition, said it would give up to $1 million to seven small businesses that want to participate, in order to include a wide array of participants.

This isn’t the first time the government has used a hacking competition to promote innovation. In 2014, DARPA launched the Cyber Grand Challenge to develop an open-source automatic defense system that could protect a computer from cyberattacks, with a similar structure to the new two-year challenge.

The government hopes that the promise of AI can help further secure critical U.S. systems.

“We have to keep defense one step ahead. And AI offers a very promising approach for that,” Perri Adams, program manager at the DARPA Information Innovation Office, told reporters on a call Tuesday. “This is a chance to explore what’s possible when experts in cybersecurity and AI have access to a suite of cross-company resources of combined unprecedented caliber.”

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