recommended reading

Pentagon cyberwarriors to unload some defensive tasks to big data


The Defense Department hopes to offload some of the work of analyzing network vulnerabilities to a machine, Pentagon officials said on Friday.

The Cyber Targeted Attack Analyzer is intended to reduce the workload for the department’s short-handed cyber forces by organizing information from “disparate network data sources” to more easily see computer abnormalities, according to the Pentagon’s laboratory. Information technology development efforts will kick off with a briefing for prospective contractors on Jan. 30, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency officials said. DARPA expects to release a solicitation for project proposals within a few weeks afterward.   

The trick will be reeling in all that intelligence from devices that are not necessarily compatible.

“Changing the way the information in the IT infrastructure is acquired, processed and made available” will help tackle the “scale-of-data” problem, DARPA officials said in announcing the industry event.

The ideal technology would need to automatically index data sources without much human intervention, according to officials. The CAT program “seeks to reduce the amount of time cyber defenders in the Department of Defense spend discovering cyber-attacks by federating and correlating” dissimilar data streams, officials said.

But the tool also must allow humans to exercise judgment so that they can, for instance, “query relationships between any connected data fields across the network” to probe irregularities further, officials added.

The contract labor likely will be divided into two sections, with one effort focused on research to devise a functioning system, and the other concentrating on testing to ensure the envisioned technology works and is secure.

The CAT program is one of several ongoing big data projects at DARPA related to cybersecurity.

The Pentagon is plowing $250 million annually into initiatives aimed at harnessing large data sets at the agency, the National Security Agency’s code-cracking division, and elsewhere. For example, DARPA’s Anomaly Detection at Multiple Scales, or ADAMS, system looks for willful or inadvertent malicious actions taken by trusted individuals -- insider threats -- against a backdrop of normal network activity. Another experimental technology, the Video and Image Retrieval and Analysis Tool, or VIRAT, scouts for dangerous combinations of videotaped activities captured by battlefield sensors that Defense would never have the time or people to review.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story had the wrong dollar figure for the amount the Pentagon is devoting to harnessing large data sets. The correct figure is $250 million.

(Image via eteimaging /

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.