The US government launches an AI challenge to bolster national security

August 10, 2023

Biden-Harris AI

The Biden-Harris Administration has announced a government-backed “AI Cyber Challenge” (AIxCC). 

This intensive competition will unfold over two years, leveraging AI to protect America’s internet security systems and critical infrastructure.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is set to orchestrate much of the competition in collaboration with Anthropic, Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI, who have pledged expertise and computing power for the duration of the challenge.

Of course, there are rewards – a prize pool approaching $20m and a top prize of $4m.

The Biden-Harris administration announced the competition at the Black Hat USA Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This event, recognized as one of the world’s largest hacking conferences, has a legacy of cultivating cybersecurity innovation. 

The mechanisms behind the challenge

The competition is designed to be inclusive and accessible – DARPA has committed $7 million to assist small businesses eager to throw their hat in the ring. Registration is open via the AIxCC website, with an initial deadline of December 15, 2023. 

After registrations are finalized, an initial qualifying event in Spring 2024 will whittle down participants to the top 20 teams. 

These elite contenders will then showcase their skills at DEF CON 2024, one of the globe’s premier cybersecurity conferences. 

From there, up to five standout teams will secure monetary rewards and advance to the final showdown at DEF CON 2025. The top three teams will battle it out for top prizes and prestige. 

The Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF), operating under the Linux Foundation, will advise on the challenge. 

Cyber security challenge timeline 

Teams can register for interest on the AIxCC website from November 1 to December 15, 2023, and the first event kicks off in February 2024.

DARPA will screen initial submissions before progressing solutions to the next rounds. 

Here’s the current schedule: 

  • The Biden-Harris Administration announces the “AI Cyber Challenge” (AIxCC) at the Black Hat USA Conference in Las Vegas.
  • Teams apply from November 1 to December 15, 2023.
  • Opening event in February 2023. 
  • Preliminary events in Spring 2024 shortlist the top 20 teams from all competitors.
  • The top 20 teams compete in the semifinals, with up to five teams advancing after earning monetary prizes, scheduled for August 2024.
  • The final phase of the competition takes place, where the top three teams from the semifinalists vie for significant cash prizes and recognition, scheduled for August 2025. 

Coding and tech challenges are a long-established approach to solving pressing challenges in IT and security, but this is set to be one of the highest-profile events of its kind. 

While it’s likely that industry leaders will dominate proceedings, at least seven small businesses will participate.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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