Back in the eighties, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) spent more than a billion dollars in an attempt to create what was, in effect, Skynet. You know, the self-aware artificial intelligence system that goes bad in The Terminator movie. DARPA called it the Strategic Computing Initiative, but it was Skynet alright. You only have to read this little bit of political persuasion in favour of the idea back then to get that: "...there will be unique new opportunities for military applications of computing. Instead of fielding simple guided missiles or remotely piloted vehicles, we might launch completely autonomous land, sea, and air vehicles capable of complex, far-ranging reconnaissance and attack missions." You may well think that the project succeeded, given that we now see the use of unmanned drones in combat, but you would be wrong. Unmanned and completely autonomous are not the same thing. The project failed so you can relax, right? Wrong. DARPA is trying again.
The tech research arm of the US military is launching a competition, or 'Cyber Grand Challenge' as it prefers to call it, which offers a couple of million dollars to anyone who can design a fully automated defense system. To be precise, a computer network capable of defending itself from attack without any human intervention at all.
"In 2016, DARPA will hold the world’s first all-computer Capture the Flag tournament live on stage co-located with the DEF CON Conference in Las Vegas where automated systems may take the first steps towards a defensible, connected future" proclaims a DARPA statement. A statement which should have been headed, in big bold red letters: SKYNET.
The US Department of Defense has the right motivation, I guess, in that is has stated it wants to create a system that can respond to any cyber attack upon it immediately and without intervention from human operators. So, what do you reckon, 'way to go' or 'oh no, way too risky' when it comes to the man vs machine debate relating to computer defense systems? All sci-fi joking aside, automated defense systems could well prove to be the answer to the increasing number of successful zero days that get launched.
But, nonetheless, SKYNET!!!