The first group of 35 teams comprising computer security experts from academia, industry and the global security community have registered to participate in the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC).
Scheduled to be held in 2016, CGC is a first-of-its-kind tournament designed to streamline the development of automated security systems, which can protect against cyber attacks as soon as they are launched.
The two-year tournament will see participants develop high-performance automated systems that will compete against each other to validate software, test for vulnerabilities, generate security patches and apply them to protected computers on a network.
DARPA programme manager Mike Walker said the existing security methods involve experts working with computerised systems to identify attacks, craft corrective patches and signatures and distribute those correctives to users, which are completed months after an attack is first launched.
"The only effective approach to defending against today's ever-increasing volume and diversity of attacks is to shift to fully automated systems, [which are] capable of discovering and neutralising attacks instantly," Walker said.
DARPA aims to follow a 'capture the flag' format used by experts to test their cyber defence skills for more than 20 years. This requires competitors to reverse engineer software created by challenge organisers and locate and heal its hidden weaknesses in a live network competition.
During the final event, those that have made it through a series of qualifying events over the next two years will compete against each other for a cash prize of $2m.
The second and third placed teams will receive $1m and $750,000, respectively.
DARPA has also signed an agreement to hold the 2016 Cyber Grand Challenge final competition in conjunction with DEF CON, one of the largest computer security conferences in the world.
Image: DARPA's Cyber Grand Challenge brings together global computer security experts for the development of high-performance automated security systems. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.