Biden administration launches AI cybersecurity challenge to ‘protect Americans’

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Biden administration launches AI cybersecurity challenge to ‘protect Americans’


In an Aug. 9 press release, the Biden administration revealed an opportunity for hackers to compete for substantial monetary rewards by applying artificial intelligence (AI) to safeguard vital United States infrastructure from cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

In spring 2024, a preliminary phase will select up to 20 high-performing teams to progress to the semifinals of DEF CON 2024, which is a major cybersecurity conference. Of these, a maximum of five teams will earn $2 million each and move on to the DEF CON 2025 finals. The top three teams will compete for extra prizes, including a $4 million award for the best safeguarding of vital software, according to the official press release from The White House.

With an allocation of nearly $20 million in rewards, the AI Cyber Challenge brings together prominent enterprises such as Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI. These industry leaders will contribute their technology to the competition, which was unveiled during the Black Hat USA hacking conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Screenshot of the press release announcing the challenge. Source: The White House

Participants will be requested to publicly share the inner workings of their systems, enabling broader utilization of their solutions. Additionally, guidance for the challenge is provided by the Open Source Security Foundation, a division of the Linux Foundation.

The organizing body of the competition — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — has committed up to $1 million in financial support to seven small enterprises aiming to join the competition in an effort to ensure a diverse range of participants.

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The use of hacking competitions to foster innovation is not a new approach for the U.S. government. Back in 2014, DARPA initiated the Cyber Grand Challenge, which aimed at creating an open-source automated defense system capable of safeguarding computers against cyber threats. The present two-year challenge follows a comparable framework to this initiative.

The contest shows that there are official efforts to deal with a new threat that experts are working to fully understand. In the past year, several U.S. companies have created different AI tools, like ChatGPT, that let users make realistic videos, images, texts and code.

On Aug. 9, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to oversee fresh U.S. investments and knowledge contributing to advancing sensitive technologies in China. Anticipated for implementation in the coming year, the action focuses on investments in semiconductors, microelectronics, quantum computing and specific AI capacities.

In the executive order, Biden cautioned that specific American investments might aid the creation of sensitive technologies and products in nations using them to counter U.S. and allied strengths.

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