Cyber Security

DARPA’s Plan X – The Cyber Warfare App

July 9, 2013

Bita Beigishah

DARPA Plan XIf you read this blog on a regular basis or follow us on twitter you already know that technology changes every single day and often times the changes are not in our favor. Take for instance the airplane hacking app, or the recent car hacking incident. Vulnerabilities are everywhere and technology is making them easier and easier to exploit and harder for us to defend. This brings us to the latest technological development to watch out for, Plan X.

What is the Mysterious Plan X?

Plan X is yet another app but in this case it will allow for not just a single cyber-attack or defense plan to be placed into action, it will allow an entire cyber war to be fought. Again, if you have kept up with our blog, you already know that cyber war is a real possibility and preparation and defense plans are being enacted across the world. However, until now the only way it was thought that a cyber war could be fought is through trained hacker to hacker battles. This is no longer the case with Plan X.

The researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have been working on developing what is essentially the first GUI (graphical user interface) for cyber warfare. This intuitive interface will allow an everyday person to inflict an effective cyber defense plan with ease, just as if they were engaged in a game of “World of Warcraft,” except in this case the consequences will hold real and damaging effects. Ultimately, it sounds like the stuff seen in movies brought into the real world playing field.

DARPA’s Vision

Since receiving this task early last year, DARPA released the first prototype of the app to give the public a taste of what the future has in store. The apps play out on a large touch screen table that continuously refreshes to reveal the most up-to-date information regarding the network. When a mission is being addressed, the mission name will appear at the top as well as icons of the weapons at the defense team’s disposal. By simply touching the icon of the attack the team wants to release, the interface will conduct the operation instead of relying on rootkits, keyloggers and exploits.

Plan X still has a lot to do before this technology can truly become a reality, but DARPA is pushing full steam ahead. By the end of August, the agency plans to award the first contracts for creating the actual Plan X device while coders will be racing to finish the software. While much remains developmentally, Plan X will likely come to fruition as it is now the first technology for cyber security that has received the backing of both the U.S. government and Pentagon. Armed with $105 million remaining of its budget, DARPA is working towards releasing a product launch as early as next year.

The Effect of X

While the agency clearly states that this technology will only be used for defending the United States’ critical infrastructure from attacks, the possibility to use it offensively still remains. It is difficult to believe otherwise, especially with disconnect between enemies engaged in cyber conflict. It is much easier to inflict an attack when you will not physically witness any of the effects. This type of technology will surely bring controversy due to not only its capabilities but the fact that an entire war can be played out simply from inside of a government game room. We will never fully predict what Plan X has in store for us but it will definitely be a technology that we follow as more about it is revealed.

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