DARPA's massive cyber security project awards $56 million for research

DARPA looks to Lockheed Martin, John Hopkins University to further National Cyber Range

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) today awarded almost $56 million to two contractors it expects will develop the second phase of technologies that it promises will be revolutionary and bolster current cyber security technology by orders of magnitude. DARPA spent $30 million to develop Phase 1. 

The contracts are part of DARPA's ambitious National Cyber Range program the agency says will develop revolutionary cyber research and development technologies.  DARPA states that the NCR will advance myriad security technologies and  "conduct unbiased, quantitative and qualitative assessment of information assurance and survivability tools in a network environment."

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Other goals of the program include the ability to:

  • Replicate complex, large-scale, heterogeneous networks and users in current and future Department of Defense weapon systems and operations.
  • Enable multiple, independent, simultaneous experiments on the same infrastructure.
  • Enable realistic testing of Internet/Global Information Grid (GIG) scale research.
  • Develop and deploy revolutionary cyber testing capabilities.

For example, the range will test a variety of technologies including: 

  • Host security systems that may modify or replace operating systems and kernels and other key workstation/endpoint components as well as wholesale replacement of information technologies.
  • Local area network security tools and suites that may require modifying or replacing traditional network device operating systems, devices and architectures.
  • Wide-area-network systems that must operate on bandwidths not commercially available today, and may require modifying or replacing traditional network device operating systems, devices and architectures.
  • Tactical networks that may include mobile ad hoc networks, maritime systems, etc.
  • New protocols that may replace portions or the entirety of today's protocol stacks.
  • The NCR has tons of objectives including the ability to offer highly advanced test facilities and the  administration needed to certify/accredit, manage security, schedule testing, and processes. It will offer the ability to replicate large-scale military and government network enclaves as well as replicate commercial and tactical wireless and control systems. The requirements seem endless in the agency's announcement letter. 

Today's announcement shows Lockheed Martin got $30,803,319 and John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory received $24,777,235 to continue developing the program. Lockheed got $5.3 million in the first round of development and Johns Hopkins got $7.3 million.  Others such as BAE Systems, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman split up the rest of the initial $30 million contract for phase 1. 

The primary objectives of Phase II are to refine and execute an  engineering plan and deliver a prototype NCR, DARPA stated. Phase 3 would involve actually building the facility and conducting a variety of research and development. 

Network research is a hot subject.  Last month Raytheon BBN Technologies was awarded an $81 million contract by the Army Research Laboratory to build what the company, which is involved in myriad network research projects for the military, called the largest communications lab in the country. 

With the five-year contract, the company will take on research in network science to identify diverse network similarities, the company said. Called the ARL Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance, the consortium will examine communication, information, and social and cognitive networks and will include leading researchers from all of these disciplines. 

Raytheon BBN Technologies will lead the ARL, which will aggregate more than 30 university and industrial labs, from an Interdisciplinary Research Center (IRC) to be established at the Raytheon BBN headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. 

According to the company it will conduct what it calls pure network science research but the IRC will be a pipeline for new technologies for the Department of Defense as it looks to develop ever-more complex and secure networks. 

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