Flow Jam is one of the new games Darpa is turning to in hopes of thwarting a cyberattack.
Online gamers may be what saves the U.S. from cyberattacks, if the Pentagon’s research group can enlist enough volunteers.
Darpa has set up a new gaming site, called Verigames, that it says will help eliminate vulnerabilities in commercial off-the-shelf software the U.S. military, government and other organizations use, marking an interesting move that the Pentagon’s research wing is turning to the crowd to solve the problems of private enterprise.
Darpa’s Crowd Sourced Formal Verification (CSFV) program offers games that simultaneously perform formal verification of C and Java software, a process that checks that software is free from flaws that can make it vulnerable to misuse. Formal verification is ordinarily carried out by specially trained engineers to manually scour software, but it’s too slow and too expensive to apply to all software. But, according to Darpa, “it may be possible for large numbers of non-experts to perform formal verification much faster and more cost-effectively than with conventional processes.”
The site’s five games are designed so that when users solve puzzles to advance to the next level of play, they are actually generating mathematical proofs that can identify software flaws that cyberattacks could exploit.
“We’re seeing if we can take really hard math problems and map them onto interesting, attractive puzzle games that online players will solve for fun,” said Darpa program manager Drew Dean, in a statement. “By leveraging players’ intelligence and ingenuity on a broad scale, we hope to reduce security analysts’ workloads and fundamentally improve the availability of formal verification.”
The government can only accept the help of individuals who are 18 or older, but that may not be the only hurdle to find gamers.
On Monday, The New York Times, the Guardian and ProPublica jointly reported that the NSA and the CIA have been conducting surveillance and accumulating data of millions of gamers who play World of Warcraft and Second Life.