Military

2020/06/08 DARPA Announces First Bug Bounty Program to Hack SSITH Hardware Defenses

Electronic systems – from the processors powering smartphones to the embedded devices keeping the Internet of Things humming – have become a critical part of daily life. The security of these systems is of paramount importance to the Department of Defense (DoD), commercial industry, and beyond. To help protect these systems from common means of exploitation, DARPA launched the System Security Integration Through Hardware and Firmware (SSITH) program in 2017. Instead of relying on patches to ensure the safety of our software applications, SSITH seeks to address the underlying hardware vulnerabilities at the source. Research teams are developing hardware security architectures and tools that protect electronic systems against common classes of hardware vulnerabilities exploited through softw...

2020/05/29 DARPA Selects Teams for Work on Tunable Gamma Ray Inspection Technology

Two California companies were selected for DARPA’s Gamma Ray Inspection Technology (GRIT) program and have begun work to develop a transportable, tunable source of gamma rays for a host of national security, industrial, and medical applications. Lumitron Technologies and RadiaBeam Technologies started work on the GRIT program in April and are exploring novel approaches to achieve high-intensity, tunable, and narrow-bandwidth sources of gamma ray radiation in a compact, transportable form factor. GRIT aims to provide a source of tunable, pure x-rays and gamma rays from tens of keV (kilo-electron volts) up through three MeV (mega-electron volts). Currently, tunable and narrow bandwidth gamma ray sources only exist at highly specialized user facilities best suited for basic research and are n...

2020/05/27 DARPA Selects Teams to Increase Security of Semiconductor Supply Chain

As Internet of Things (IoT) devices rapidly increase in popularity and deployment, economic attackers and nation-states alike are shifting their attention to the vulnerabilities of digital integrated circuit (IC) chips. Threats to IC chips are well known, and despite various measures designed to mitigate them, hardware developers have largely been slow to implement security solutions due to limited expertise, high cost and complexity, and lack of security-oriented design tools integrated with supporting semiconductor intellectual property (IP). Further, when unsecure circuits are used in critical systems, the lack of embedded countermeasures exposes them to exploitation. To address the growing threat this poses from an economic and national security perspective, DARPA developed the Automat...

2020/05/21 Episode 27: Detecting Threats with Time to Act

Episode 27: Detecting Threats with Time to Act In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, Mark Wrobel, a program manager since 2019 in the agency’s Defense Sciences Office (DSO), chronicles progress in the SIGMA+ program and its potential near-term relevance to monitoring the environment for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The now-completed predecessor program, SIGMA, delivered a sensor and analysis system for detecting imminent nuclear and radiological threats in complex settings like cities, stadiums, and travel hubs. That system has been transitioning into deployments. The charge of the SIGMA+ program is to expand the threat-detection system’s abilities to include an extensive range of chemical, explosive, and biological agents. To avoid costly false alarms and potent...

2020/05/14 Voices from DARPA #26 – The Eclectic Biotechnician

In this episode of our Voices from DARPA podcast, Eric Van Gieson, a program manager since 2017 in the agency’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), recounts how a boyhood fascination with DARPA ultimately led to his current role overseeing a portfolio of envelope-pushing programs. These include a program that seeks new diagnostic tools for perhaps the earliest-possible detection of exposure to pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; an effort to identify and leverage the biomolecular bases underlying optimal performance in such roles as piloting aircraft or participating in special forces missions; research toward new personal-protection technologies that combine advanced featherweight fabrics with designed, bio-based agents applied directly to the body where the...

2020/05/13 Gamebreaker AI Effort Gets Under Way

DARPA recently selected nine teams for the Gamebreaker Artificial Intelligence (AI) Exploration program, which held its virtual kickoff meeting May 5. Gamebreaker seeks to develop and apply AI to existing open-world video games to quantitatively assess game balance, identify underlying parameters that significantly contribute to balance, and explore new capabilities, tactics, and rule modifications that are most destabilizing to the game. The commercial gaming industry has a long-standing interest in maintaining game balance as balanced games are typically more entertaining, and market pressures help drive their development. In future conflicts, DoD investment is designed to maximize imbalance to create an advantage or to seek equilibrium when an adversary is seeking an advantage. “If we c...

2020/05/11 Blackjack Focuses on Risk Reduction Flights and Simulations to Prepare for Full Demonstration

In partnership with the U.S. Space Force and Space Development Agency, DARPA’s Blackjack program is targeting flights to low-Earth orbit (LEO) later this year and 2021. Using a series of small risk reduction satellites, the program aims to demonstrate advanced technology for satellite constellation autonomy and space mesh networks. Blackjack seeks to develop and validate critical elements of global high-speed autonomous networks in LEO, proving a capability that could provide the Department of Defense with highly connected, resilient, and persistent overhead coverage. The upcoming demonstration flights are all planned as rideshares, catching a ride to LEO on a launch with other missions. The first demonstration, Mandrake 1, is a cubesat that will carry supercomputer processing chips. Mandr...

2020/05/11 DARPA Kicks Off Program to Advance Quantum Computing

DARPA has selected seven university and industry teams for the first phase of the Optimization with Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum devices (ONISQ) program. Phase 1 of the program began in March and will last 18 months. ONISQ aims to exploit quantum information processing before universal fault-tolerant quantum computers are realized, which isn’t expected for many years. The program is pursuing a hybrid concept that combines intermediate-sized quantum devices (hundreds to thousands of quantum bits, or qubits) with classical computing systems to solve a particularly challenging set of problems known as combinatorial optimization. ONISQ seeks to demonstrate a quantitative advantage of quantum information processing by leapfrogging the performance of classical-only systems in solving optimiz...

2020/05/06 Researchers on DARPA’s Brandeis Program Enhance Privacy Protections for Android Applications

From navigation to remote banking, mobile device users rely on a variety of applications to streamline daily tasks, communicate, and dramatically increase productivity. While exceedingly useful, the ecosystem of third-party applications utilizes a number of sensors – microphones, GPS, pedometers, cameras – and user interactions to collect data used to enable functionality. Troves of sensitive personal data about users are accessible to these applications and as defense and commercial mobile device users become increasingly reliant on the technology, there are growing concerns around the challenge this creates for preserving user privacy. Under DARPA’s Brandeis program, a team of researchers led by Two Six Labs and Raytheon BBN Technologies have developed a platform called Privacy Enhanceme...

2020/05/04 DARPA Announces Discover DSO Day Webinar

The Defense Sciences Office (DSO) – one of six technical offices at DARPA – is sponsoring Discover DSO Day (D3) via webinar June 24-25, 2020, to inform potential proposers about the scientific and technical research areas of interest to DSO. “The goal of D3 is to familiarize attendees with DSO’s mission, provide an overview of the latest office-wide Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation scheduled for release in June, and facilitate dialogue between our program managers and participants,” said DSO Director Valerie Browning. “While we aren’t able to host the event in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re looking forward to an informative and interactive on-line event.” DSO identifies and pursues high-risk, high-payoff research initiatives across a broad spectrum of science and en...

2020/04/27 AlphaDogfight Trials Final Event Moved to August

DARPA’s AlphaDogfight Trials Final event, originally scheduled for April, has been rescheduled for the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The third and final trial is now planned for Aug. 17-20, 2020, at AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation hub, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eight teams were selected last year to compete in a virtual competition designed to demonstrate advanced artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms capable of performing simulated within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, colloquially known as a dogfight. The series of trials was designed to energize and expand a base of AI developers for DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. ACE seeks to automate air-to-air combat and build human trust in AI as a step toward improved human-machine teaming. “AlphaDogfight Trials performer...

2020/04/13 OFFSET Awards Contracts to Advance Swarm Tactics for Urban Missions, Enhance Physical Testbeds

DARPA has awarded contracts to nine performers to begin work on the fifth swarm sprint for the agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. The program envisions swarms of up to 250 collaborative autonomous systems providing insights to ground troops as they operate in dense urban environments. OFFSET has five key thrust areas – swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment, and physical testbed – each sprint emphasizes one of those areas. The swarm sprints aim to encourage rapid innovation and continuous incorporation of the very latest technologies. The fifth swarm sprint consists of two topic areas: Physical Testbed and Swarm Tactics. Swarm Sprinters in either topic will integrate their technologies into one or both of the OFFSET swarm systems arc...