November 08, 2011, 12:05 PM — In its unending effort to find more technologically innovative ways to accomplish things most of the government agencies that are its clients can't do at all, DARPA called a conference this week to ask for help security military and government networks against hackers.
Who did it invite?
Not, fortunately, the divisions of Chinese military hackers who have been digitally marching one by one through military and government installations with impunity for anywhere from five to ten years.
The Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) called the "cyber colloquium" to talk about the difficulty DARPA and the Pentagon have securing their systems.
"DARPA seeks the elite of the cyber community—visionary hackers, academics and professionals from small and large businesses—to change the dynamic of cyber defense," the invitation read.
U.S. government and military networks are built on the same model as the Internet – with redundant pathways, little restriction or ablity to identify the source of traffic and quick acceptance of new sources of identical data. The Internet was built to recover from holes blown in it by nuclear bombs, not to secure one portion against unauthorized access without impeding anything else running across it, DARPA director Regina Dugan told the crowd.
U.S. networks "are as porous as a colander," according to Richard Clarke, former White House counterterrorism chief, as quoted in Wired.
To solve a cyber-security problem the General Accountability Office reported had been so low on the Dept. of Defense's agenda during the past 21 years that the DoD had no coherent central policy, procedures or even identified leaders in the process of stopping the leak of information from its servers and those of its defense contractors.
Did DARPA get the fresh ideas and offers of help it was hoping for when it put the colloquium together?
Will the $208 million it is asking that Congress give it for cybersecurity research next year do any good?
Probably. You can't wave that much cheese around – while promising it will continue to grow – without getting a few rodents sniffing after it.
Wired reported that the DARPA people were happier about recruiting in their own conference than they are at the Black Hat/DefCon conference in Las Vegas.