DARPA wants you to verify software flaws by playing games

DARPA wants you to verify software flaws by playing games

Can online gamers perform the sometimes tedious software verification work typically done by professional coding experts?

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) think so and were so impressed with their first crowdsourced flaw-detecting games, they announced an new round of five games this week designed for improved playability as well as increased software verification effectiveness.

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DARPA began the program known as Crowd Sourced Formal Verification (CSFV) in December 2013 and opened the Verigames web portal (http://www.verigames.com/home), which offered five free online formal verification games.

“These games translated players’ actions into program annotations and assisted formal verification experts in generating mathematical proofs to verify the absence of important classes of flaws in software written in the “C” and “Java” programming languages. An initial analysis indicates that non-experts playing CSFV games generated hundreds of thousands of annotations,” DARPA stated.

According to DARPA, gameplay generates mathematical proofs that can verify the absence of certain software flaws or bugs in common open source software. “If gameplay reveals potentially harmful code, DARPA will implement approved notification and mitigation procedures, including notifying the organization responsible for the affected software. Because CSFV verifies open source software that commercial, government and/or Department of Defense systems may use, prompt notification is essential to correct the software rapidly and mitigate risk of functional or security breakdowns,” DARPA stated.

The new crowdsourced verification games include:

  • Dynamakr: Asks players to energize mysterious patterns in a cosmic puzzle machine
  • Paradox: Asks players to use an array of tools to optimize vast networks
  • Ghost Map Hyperspace: Asks players to battle alien invaders and seal off their hyperspace rifts
  • Monster Proof: Asks players to explore a kingdom of monsters and solve puzzles to get rich
  • Binary Fission: An atom-splitting game that asks players to mix and match quarks in the name of cybersecurity

Verigames offers other games including:

  • CircuitBot: Link up a team of robots to carry out a mission.
  • Flow Jam: Analyze and adjust a cable network to maximize its flow.
  • StormBound: Unweave the windstorm into patterns of streaming symbols.
  • Xylem: Catalog species of plants using mathematical formulas.

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