White House unveils $18.5m challenge to bolster AI against cyber threats


In a bid to advance the cyber landscape, the White House has initiated an ambitious competition offering $18.5m in prize money.

This contest seeks the creation of innovative AI solutions capable of safeguarding critical software from potential cyber threats.

Aimed at enticing competitors to develop unique AI systems, the challenge focuses on rapidly identifying and rectifying software vulnerabilities. These potential weak spots can be found in essential infrastructures such as electric grids or subway networks, areas that are high-risk targets for hackers.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy director, Arati Prabhakar, emphasised the critical nature of this competition at a recent briefing. She said, “This competition will be a clarion call for all kinds of creative people in organisations to bolster the security of critical software that American families and businesses and all of our society relies on.”

Boosting the potential pool of competitors, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is overseeing the competition, has announced a separate $7m fund. This fund will be directed towards supporting small businesses wishing to participate in the challenge. Furthermore, DARPA is joining forces with AI industry giants like Anthropic, Google, Microsoft, and ChatGPT’s creator, OpenAI. These partnerships are set to provide valuable expertise and technological support for the competition.

Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, Anne Neuberger, elucidated the primary intent behind this challenge. She expressed during the briefing, “The challenge is intended to bring together diverse thinkers from all across the nation to think about how we can use AI to dramatically improve cybersecurity.”

Highlighting the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, Neuberger added, “In cybersecurity, there’s always a race between offence and defence. We see the promise of AI in enabling defence to be one step ahead.”

The challenge’s announcement, made in Las Vegas at a major cybersecurity conference, sets the stage for the Def Con gathering. This event will witness hackers attempting to breach various AI systems, providing a real-world assessment of their robustness.

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