DARPA looking to manage cyber-wars with Plan X - videogame type software

May 29, 2013 by Bob Yirka weblog

(Phys.org) —DARPA has been not-so-secretly working on a way to allow less technically proficient cyber troops to engage in cyber wars. The answer is apparently Plan X, a hardware and software platform solution that allows people that are not technically proficient in cyber warfare to engage using software that resembles a videogame. As part of its official announcement and call for proposals, the agency has outlined a specific type of product that it believes will give the U.S. a clear advantage in engaging in cyber warfare.

has become the new battleground between advanced nations. Headlines describing cyber attacks by people in China on facilities in the United States have become commonplace. And news that the U.S. government was behind a cyber attack against computer systems in Iran involved in processing uranium made clear that the U.S. is not just interested in defending itself against cyber attacks, but plans to carry them out against others as well.

One major problem with engaging in cyber warfare, at least up until now, is the limited number of people with the technical know-how required to engage in cyber attacks or to help in defending against them. For that reason, DARPA began looking for ways to allow those with less training to watch for attacks, take action against them and to initiate attacks against others. Plan X was announced in May of 2012—its aim is to develop new technologies to better understand, plan and manage missions in cyberspace on large scale networks that are constantly changing.

Wired magazine has taken an interest in Plan X, devoting a lot of resources into finding out just how it might work and what it might look like once finished. Contributing editor, Noah Shachtman reports that the system is currently being run on a Samsung SUR40 Touch Table (as demoed at DARPA headquarters last October). It was designed by Frog Design—the company that designed the Sony Walkman. Shachtman notes that the design resembles World of Warcraft in some ways—network topologies are displayed, along with icons that represent tools, or weapons. The system is meant to demonstrate "missions" for the end user to undertake. Each mission is outlined (as created by a human in charge) by the system and describes what "weapons" are available for use to accomplish goals. Once engaged, the user moves through the network either looking for ways to defend against possible attacks by others, or to reach a target to unleash an attack. The idea, he notes, is to allow the user of the system to engage with other cyber soldiers or entities without having to learn how things work at a deeper level. That, he says, will give confidence that the U.S. is fully capable of engaging successfully in cyber warfare now and in the future.

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Shootist
2.3 / 5 (3) May 29, 2013
God, stupid DARPA, if you don't want your online stuff messed with . . . don't put it online.

Aloken
5 / 5 (1) May 29, 2013
The idea, he notes, is to allow the user of the system to engage with other cyber soldiers or entities without having to learn how things work at a deeper level. That, he says, will give DARPA confidence that the U.S. is fully capable of engaging successfully in cyber warfare now and in the future.


So DARPAs plan to keep the nations virtual assets safe is to get videogame players to do something about it? Oh that'll go well...
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (2) May 29, 2013
For that reason, DARPA began looking for ways to allow those with less training to watch for attacks, take action against them and to initiate attacks against others.

Sweet Lord: Skript kiddies with nukes.
This oughta go as planned...

...not.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) May 29, 2013
Nah, it's just a force multiplier. You have a small number of highly trained tech guys that manage the system, and then you have a large number of 'trained' guys who know just what they are taught in the cyber warfare school. It's like a secretary who is an expert in microsoft office. She doesn't know how to write the software, but she's a trained expert in using it. They aren't talking about getting the general public to do anything. This tool would be used by people trained in advanced level schools by the military. Just like a soldier would go to school to learn to fly a jet fighter. You see, it takes years of college level education to get someone proficient in hacking. The average soldier's enlistment isn't that long. They need tools simple enough that a soldier can use them after six months to a year of training at a specialized school. This is a logical next step. Division of labor into specific jobs that are easy enough to do with minimal training.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (2) May 30, 2013
Exactly what I'm saying: Think ybout what will happen with these people when they leave the military service.
(No - miiltary personell are not more or less moral than the next person. Since they accept killing as a possible job-activity - and don't consider this a reson not to take the job - I'd even argue that they are markedly LESS moral than the average person from the start)

So you'll have these people out inthe street with no real skills (computer and otherwise) but the abilty to hack on a high level given the right tools (which are easily available to someone like that).

Doesn't this strike anyone as a self-made disaster waiting to happen?
GSwift7
not rated yet May 31, 2013
Doesn't this strike anyone as a self-made disaster waiting to happen?


No. It's no different than training people how to fly a jet fighter. Without the pentagon hardware, they can't really do any more damage than any other civillian. They aren't going to get a copy of the software to take home, and this won't be Windows software. It's probably gonna be running on the big machines over at the NSA data centers. This kind of stuff doesn't translate into something a person could use at home, generally. Besides, if you really want to learn how to do some damage, just go get a MCSE class.

I'm surprised to see you being so paranoid, it's not like you. If technology scares you, then go read Frankenstien. Fear of technology isn't anything new.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (2) May 31, 2013
No. It's no different than training people how to fly a jet fighter.

It is somewhat different. After someone leaves the military they do not have access to military fighters (and their armaments)

Gaining access to software is trivial by comparison. Especially if you know what the software does it's not hard to find someone to whip up something that does what you say the military software could do. Writing software is not a prohibitively expensive process (whereas building fighter planes is). And it only needs to be done once so that ALL ex-military members of that branch can have it.

And really - once you use the software it's out there. (Because mostly such attacks include installing malicious software on target computers)...so the military almost immediately loses control over its distribution.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (2) May 31, 2013
If technology scares you, then go read Frankenstien.

Technology in itself doesn't scare me. It's access to technologies that can do a lot of harm in the hands of people who are dumb that scares me.

That's why I think people shouldn't be able to buy nuclear weapons at Wal Mart (or automatic weapons - or guns of any kind for that matter)

It's not a black/white thing: You have to look at the tradeoffs between utility/gains and (potential) dangers. And I see very little gain here with a lot of potential dangers.