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White House launches contest to improve critical infrastructure cybersecurity with AI | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

The White House today announced the AI Cyber Challenge, a contest designed to improve the cybersecurity of the United States’ critical infrastructure.

The contest was detailed during Black Hat USA 2023, a major cybersecurity event taking place this week in Las Vegas.

The AI Cyber Challenge will run for two years. Participants will be tasked with developing tools that use artificial intelligence to automatically find and fix software vulnerabilities. The goal, the White House detailed, is to explore how AI can be used to secure critical infrastructure assets such as electric grids.

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is responsible for hosting the contest. The effort will also include the participation of Google LLC, Microsoft Corp., OpenAI LP and Anthropic, a generative AI startup backed by about $1 billion in funding. The four companies will contribute technology and know-how to the challenge.

Another contributor is the Open Source Security Foundation. It’s a consortium dedicated to improving the security of open-source software. The consortium, which operates under the wing of the Linux Foundation, includes Apple Inc., Intel Corp. and several other major tech firms.

The White House said that the Open Source Security Foundation will serve as a challenge adviser. Its responsibilities will include ensuring that the winning team’s software is “put to use right away protecting America’s most vital software and keeping the American people safe.”

The first round of the competition is scheduled to take place at the DEF CON 2024 cybersecurity conference next year. Up to 20 contenders will move on to the second round. From there, up to five teams will be selected to participate in the final.

DARPA will issue nearly $20 million worth of rewards to the participants. According to the White House, the top scoring team is set to win “millions of dollars” for its contribution to critical infrastructure cybersecurity. The up to four other teams that qualify for the final will likewise receive monetary rewards.

“To ensure broad participation and a level playing field for AIxCC, DARPA will also make available $7 million to small businesses who want to compete,” the White House detailed today.

The AI Cyber Challenge is launching two days after the White House announced another new cybersecurity initiative. Through that initiative, the Federal Communications Commission will allocate up to $200 million to improving the cybersecurity of K-12 schools and libraries. Amazon Web Services Inc., in turn, will provide up to $20 million worth of grants along with other resources such as free cybersecurity training. 

Photo: Wikipedia

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National Cyber Security