On Monday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a Sept. 27 Proposers’ Day for its Foundational Cyberwarfare program, a new initiative that will seek “to create revolutionary technologies for understanding, planning, and managing cyberwarfare in real-time, large-scale, and dynamic network environments.” Codenamed “Plan X,” the initiative will also support “novel research into the nature of cyberwarfare and support development of fundamental strategies and tactics needed to dominate the cyber battlespace.” The Proposers’ Day comes in advance of the formal request for proposals, which is anticipated in late September.
According to the notice, “DARPA seeks innovative research in four key areas in support of Plan X” (following the link):
- Understanding the cyber battlespace: This area focuses on developing automated analysis techniques to assist human operators in planning cyber operations. Specifically, analyzing large-scale logical network topology characteristics of nodes (i.e., edge count, dynamic vs. static links, usage) and edges (i.e. latency, bandwidth, periodicity).
- Automatically constructing verifiable and quantifiable cyber operations: This area focuses on developing high-level mission plans and automatically synthesizing a mission script that is executed through a human-on-the-loop interface, similar to the auto-pilot function in modern aircraft. This process will leverage formal methods to provably quantify the potential battle damage from each synthesized mission plan.
- Developing operating systems and platforms designed to operate in dynamic, contested, and hostile network environments: This area focuses on building hardened “battle units” that can perform cyberwarfare functions such as battle damage monitoring, communication relay, weapon deployment, and adaptive defense.
- Visualizing and interacting with large-scale cyber battlespaces: This area focuses on developing intuitive views and overall user experience. Coordinated views of the cyber battlespace will provide cyberwarfare functions of planning, operation, situational awareness, and war gaming.
A system architecture team is also sought to lead the end-to-end Plan X system development. This will include working with Plan X performers to develop the standard system application programming interfaces, data format specifications, and performer integration schedule. The system architecture team will also be responsible for purchasing Plan X system infrastructure and hardware.
The Proposers’ Day — to take place at the DARPA Conference Center in Arlington, VA, between 9am and 4pm EDT on Sept. 27th – aims to educate prospective PIs and government partners on Plan X concepts and key technology areas using interactive technology prototypes, as well as foster new collaborative teams among attendees. The morning session will be unclassified, but attendance at the afternoon session will be limited to individuals with U.S. DOD SECRET clearances or higher.
(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)