“The Darpa’s Cyber Grand Challenge which will be taking place in August is based on a unique theme – here, seven teams will participate to find vulnerabilities in the computer’s security system, so that they can be patched up before they are manipulated by hackers. With an amount of $70,000 at stake here, the seven teams must participate in a game of “capture-the-flag”.
Giovanni Vigna, a professor of computer science at University of California Santa Barbara, and the founder of the hacking team ‘Shelllphish’, has built a system called the ‘Mechanical Phish’ which will be used in the competition. He has said that hacking is not as “sexy” as it is shown on celluloid, but is done mostly because “it’s fun” or because someone wants to attack someone else, often with a motive of revenge or as a mark of protest.
Other groups, who aren’t participating in thechallenge, are working to develop hacking systems powered by artificial intelligence such as the one developed by Konstantinos Karagiannis, the Chief Technology Officer of BT Americas, which utilizes nervous transmissions to simulate a working model of the human brain
He demonstrated how a program called ‘MarI/O’ which was developed in artificial intelligence, was able to complete a game of the ever popular Super Mario, without having any prior knowledge of it. It just attempted a few random techniques, and somehow manage to sail through after 34 attempts.
“Using this approach a security scanner could identify intricate flaws using creative approaches you would have never thought of. And it can be written with very modest hardware. A $1,000 GPU [graphics processing unit, typically used in gaming] can outrun a supercomputer that used to fill a building 10 years ago.”
The new concept of robo-hackers is proving to be a treat for many cybersecurity professionals, but it could be exploited in the wrong manner if it fell into the hands of criminal hackers. The co-founder of HackerOne Alex Rice agrees with this. He believes that anything in this virtual world which may seem very beneficial can actually prove to be a “double-edged sword” in ways more than one.
“There’s not a single organization that hasn’t had a compromise that was life-threatening, so clearly everything we’re doing is failing” – Rice has said to The Guardian. According to him, the best way of annihilating the cons of the situation would be to combine human minds with the usability of machines – “Until we have fully sentient machines, they still have to be instructed by humans.”