Security Experts:

DARPA Looking to Make Computers Adapt to Humans

DARPA Seeks Stronger Authentication Beyond Passwords by Making Computers Adapt to Humans

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is asking for help designing a new approach to authentication.

According to DARPA, the goal of the Active Authentication Program is to advance research in the area of software biometric modalities for computer system authentication.

Secure Authentication Research

“My house key will get you into my house, but the dog in my living room knows you’re not me,” said Richard Guidorizzi, program manager for DARPA’s new Active Authentication program, in a statement. “No amount of holding up my key and saying you’re me is going to convince my dog you’re who you say you are. My dog knows you don’t look like me, smell like me or act like me. What we want out of this program is to find those things that are unique to you, and not some single aspect of computer security that an adversary can use to compromise your system.”

According to DARPA, the key to this approach is to make computers adapt to humans, rather than the other way around. In other words, the agency wants to investigate approaches that determine a computer user’s identity through the activities the user normally performs – making the user the password instead of the actual password.

Examples of existing research include work with fingerprints, as well as using mouse tracking as a way to validate a person’s identity.

To solicit ideas, DARPA will be holding an Active Authentication Proposer Day in Arlington, VA, on Nov. 18. The event is unclassified. Information can be found here.

Speaking earlier this week at DARPA’s Colloquium on Future Directions in Cyber Security, DARPA Director Regina E. Dugan said the agency will be increasing its investment in IT. According to DARPA, the agency’s budget submission for fiscal year 2012 increased cyber research funding from $120 million to $208 million – a nearly 50 percent bump. In addition, there are plans to increase its top line budget investment in cyber research from eight percent to 12 percent during the next five years.

“We are shifting our investments to activities that promise more convergence with the threat and that recognize the needs of the Department of Defense,” Dugan said, in a statement. “Malicious cyber attacks are not merely an existential threat to our bits and bytes; they are a real threat to our physical systems, including our military systems. To this end, in the coming years we will focus an increasing portion of our cyber research on the investigation of offensive capabilities to address military-specific needs.”

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