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By Cam Sivesind
Thu | Aug 17, 2023 | 4:15 AM PDT

The AI Cyber Challenge announced last week by the Biden Administration is offering up to $20 million in prizes to ethical hackers who can harness the power of artificial intelligence to protect critical U.S. infrastructure from cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity experts have generally welcomed the AI Cyber Challenge, which features collaboration from leading AI companies, including Anthropic, Microsoft, OpenAI, and Google. These companies and others will make their technology available for the competition, which was announced at Black Hat USA in Las Vegas.

Most cybersecurity professionals believe that AI has the potential to significantly improve the security of critical software. However, they have also raised some concerns, such as:

  • The challenge may not be enough to address the scale and complexity of the cybersecurity threat landscape.
  • AI systems can be just as vulnerable to attack as human-made systems.
  • There is a risk that AI could be used to create new and more sophisticated cyber threats.

Overall, security experts believe that the AI Cyber Challenge is a positive step, but they caution that it is just one part of a broader effort to protect critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

Here are some comments from cyber experts about the AI Cyber Challenge:

John Dickson, CEO of Denim Group:

"This is a great initiative that could help to accelerate the development of new AI-powered cybersecurity tools. However, it is important to remember that AI is not a silver bullet, and it will not solve all of our cybersecurity problems. We need to continue to invest in other areas of cybersecurity, such as education and awareness, in order to be truly secure."

Marcus Ranum, CEO of Tenable:

"The AI Cyber Challenge is a good step forward, but it is important to remember that AI is not a magic wand. It can be used to improve cybersecurity, but it can also be used to create new and more sophisticated threats. We need to be careful about how we use AI in cybersecurity, and we need to make sure that we have the right safeguards in place."

Bruce Schneier, security technologist and author:

"The AI Cyber Challenge is a welcome development, but it is just one part of the solution. We need to continue to invest in traditional cybersecurity measures, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems. We also need to do more to educate and train people about cybersecurity risks."

According to the White House press release:

"Teams will participate in a qualifying event in Spring 2024, where the top scoring teams (up to 20) will be invited to participate in the semifinal competition at DEF CON 2024, one of the world's top cybersecurity conferences. Of these, the top scoring teams (up to five) will receive monetary prizes and continue to the final phase of the competition, to be held at DEF CON 2025. The top three scoring competitors in the final competition will receive additional monetary prizes.

The top competitors will make a meaningful difference in cybersecurity for America and the world. The Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF), a project of the Linux Foundation, will serve as a challenge advisor. It will also help ensure that the winning software code is put to use right away protecting America's most vital software and keeping the American people safe.

'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.'"