The White House recently unveiled the "AI Cyber Challenge" (AIxCC), a two-year competition aimed at harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to identify and address vulnerabilities in software. The announcement, made during the Black Hat USA 2023 conference in Las Vegas this week, marks a significant step forward in the ongoing battle against cyber threats facing the United States.
Led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the AI Cyber Challenge seeks to tap into the transformative potential of AI in fortifying cybersecurity defenses. The competition invites computer scientists, AI experts, software developers, and cybersecurity specialists to collaborate in creating advanced AI-powered cybersecurity tools designed to secure critical infrastructure and government services.
Perri Adams, a DARPA Program Manager and speaker at Black Hat this year, shared the surprise announcement on X (Twitter):
I'm delighted to join @thedarktangent at the opening of @BlackHatEvents to announce AIxCC for the first time. Nearly $20 million in prizes will be awarded over the next two years to teams who build the best systems. https://t.co/mZR4ZNSiaM pic.twitter.com/0QkmxRS1Eg— Perri Adams @ Black Hat and DEF CON (@perribus) August 9, 2023
DARPA's collaboration with leading AI companies—including Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI—underscores the commitment to harnessing cutting-edge technology to address cybersecurity challenges.
These industry giants will not only provide their expertise but also make their AI technologies available to the participating teams, fostering a collaborative environment to drive innovation in cybersecurity.
Of paramount importance is the focus on open-source software vulnerabilities. Open-source software forms the backbone of various critical systems, making it a prime target for potential cyberattacks. To guide participants in developing effective AI systems capable of addressing these vulnerabilities, the Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF), a project of the Linux Foundation, will serve as a challenge advisor.
The AI Cyber Challenge features two distinct tracks for participation. The Funded Track invites up to seven small businesses to submit proposals via the Small Business Innovation Research solicitation, with each selected business receiving $1 million in funding. The Open Track allows competitors to register with DARPA independently, with an opportunity to proceed without DARPA funding.
Teams from both tracks will engage in a series of trials, culminating in the semifinals held at the 2024 DEFCON conference. The top five teams from the semifinals will advance to the final competition during DEFCON 2025. With a total funding of $25 million, including prizes and funding for the Funded Track, DARPA is committed to fueling innovation in the field of cybersecurity.
By promoting the use of AI in addressing cybersecurity challenges, the Biden Administration is aiming to enhance the security of critical software systems, protect national interests, and ultimately contribute to a safer digital landscape.
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