Government spends over $30 million to sharpen cyber security saber

They call it game changing cyber security innovation and at over $30 million it better be.  Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) today outlined the major contractors it expects will develop the first phase of technologies that it promises will improve cyber security "by orders of magnitude above our current systems."

The contracts are part of DARPA's ambitious National Cyber Range program the agency says will develop revolutionary cyber research and development technologies.

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 (LAN) security tools and suites that may require modifying or replacing traditional network device operating systems, devices and architectures.
  • Wide-area-network (WAN) 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.

And the $30 million is on the beginning.  "Addressing the vulnerabilities within our cyber infrastructure must become our long-term national security and economic security priority," Melissa Hathaway, director of the Joint Interagency Cyber Task Force, said in a release. "I don't believe that this is a single-year or even a multi-year investment - it's a multi-decade approach."

National Cyber Range phase I (of four) contractors and their contract dollar values are:

During the program's initial eight-month phase, contractors will develop detailed engineering plans. At the conclusion of the initial phase, DARPA will make decisions regarding future plans, which notionally could include a second phase with a critical design review, and a third phase to develop the full-scale National Cyber Range and start conducting tests, DARPA said.

The DARPA awards come in the same week FBI and Department of Justice executives are warning that if law enforcement and others connected with keeping the Internet a secure and safe place to do business and socialize the world could be headed toward a cyber-based economic meltdown -- cybergeddon.  

Computer attacks pose the biggest risk "from a national security perspective, other than a weapon of mass destruction or a bomb in one of our major cities," said Shawn Henry, assistant director of the FBI's cyber division told the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York.

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