MoD sponsors cyber defence automation competition

The Ministry of Defence has announced £2m funding for a competition to find innovative ways of automating cyber defences

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced £2m in sponsorship for a competition to find innovative ways of automating cyber defences.

The MoD recognises that once a system is compromised, a cyber attack can quickly escalate, and so it believes automated responses are an essential part of cyber defence processes.

An automated cyber defence response includes collecting information, identifying the attack, analysing potential courses of action and then responding.

The funding will be split equally between two phases of the competition to identify winning proof-of-concept research proposals for automated responses to threats to MoD computer systems.

Phase 1 of the competition will be launched by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) in London on 9 September 2014.

The CDE provides a way for the MoD to assess the thinking and capabilities of science and technology providers and aims to remove barriers for SMEs to enter the defence supply chain.

Read more on cyber security automation

Technology industry representatives and academics are invited to register for the launch event to find out more about the competition and discuss ideas that could benefit the UK’s defence security.

In phase 2, funding will be awarded on a per-project basis to the most successful outputs of projects funded in phase 1.

“Our armed forces rely on cyberspace to conduct successful operations and the £2m funding available for this competition demonstrates the MoD’s commitment to cyber defence,” said Jim Pennycook, head of operations at the CDE.

“Automated responses are an essential part of cyber defence processes and this funding will allow us to support a range of innovative proposals in this area,” he added.

Proposals must be submitted through the CDE portal before the competition closes at 5pm on Thursday 23 October 2014.

According to the MoD, the CDE has received more than 5,100 research proposals since it was established in May 2008.

More than 850 proposals have been selected for funding, comprising a total contract value of £48m, with almost half of those contracts awarded to SMEs.

In 2010, the US military launched an initiative to automate its computer defences to compensate for the shortage in the number of infosecurity experts it could train as cyber warriors.

The initiative, which used situational awareness tools and network sensors and automating patch management systems, was aimed at establishing a baseline to make it easier to identify malicious activity without relying on manually intensive processes.

Read more on Privacy and data protection