Email was initially created without security in mind and we’ve paid for it ever since by continually bolting fixes onto it, said Isaac Potoczny-Jones, research lead at Galois. But the complexity of connected vehicle systems has created pushback on the issue of cybersecurity, he noted. “Innovative areas like this have a real challenge in baking nonfunctional requirements like cybersecurity into the basis of their systems,” Potoczny-Jones said. “But just because there’s no value today in attackers targeting these systems that there won’t be value tomorrow. We don’t know what we’re up against tomorrow. Things change. They will start to target these systems.”
Specifically, Galois will develop its Prattle system for the Air Force. Galois describes Prattle as a system that generates traffic that misleads an attacker that has penetrated a network: making them doubt what they have learned, or to cause them to make mistakes that increase their likelihood of being detected sooner.
The Air Force is giving Galois a $750,000 grant to work on the program as part of a larger $100 million effort to expand cyber detection technologies. The funds will be used to take the program out of its prototype phase. “The idea is to try to fool the adversary about what’s going on in the world, so that they either make bad decisions they take longer or they are easier to detect,” said Adam Wick, research lead at Galois, the company contracted with the Air Force for the project.
Paving the way for government use, DARPA has funded a handful of startups, such as Guardtime Federal and Galois Inc., to develop blockchain uses for secure communications, as well as potentially everything from weapons systems to files. The work should be completed within a year, Booher said. Some defense contractors are already demonstrating and deploying the blockchain, he said.
If the verification goes well, it would inch DARPA closer to using some form of blockchain technology for the military, Booher says. “We’re certainly thinking through a lot of applications,” he says. “As Galois does its verification work and we understand at a deep level the security properties pf this [technology] then I would start to set up a series of meetings [with the rest of the agency] to start that dialog.”
When the project started, a “Red Team” of hackers could have taken over the helicopter almost as easily as it could break into your home Wi-Fi. But in the intervening months, engineers from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency had implemented a new kind of security mechanism—a software system that couldn’t be commandeered. Key parts of Little Bird’s computer system were unhackable with existing technology, its code as trustworthy as a mathematical proof. Even though the Red Team was given six weeks with the drone and more access to its computing network than genuine bad actors could ever expect to attain, they failed to crack Little Bird’s defenses.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded a $6 million contract to Galois, a Portland, Oregon-based computer science company, to build out a product that can identify “advanced persistent threats” — cyberintrusions that allow the actor to remain in the system for an extended period. The company is also working with the National Institute of Standards in Technology on an internet of things pilot. Galois is developing a system that could collect consumer data from smart-home devices and services, while attempting to preserve their privacy. It has also demonstrated software to DOD that could help prevent drones from being hacked.
Seven experts, including Galois Rigorous Software Engineering Lead Joe Kiniry, weigh in on the current use and practice of formal methods in cybersecurity. “FM researchers are pursuing two complementary paths. The bulk of the community continues to focus on foundations (what I call “pure FM”), while the rest of the community looks for opportunities to […]
“For example one of the classic security vulnerabilities is a buffer overrun error which allows one function or data to come in and overwrite memory where its not supposed to, and that can be exploited by a hacker. So Galois developed languages that allow us to produce software that doesn’t have these types of memory vulnerabilities. We have used this language to reverse engineer a lot of the functionality on our research platforms, Boeing did the same thing on the unmanned little bird that they flew,”
Most jurisdictions today are using election technology developed in the 1990s, and the typical voting system is running an operating system that is no longer vendor-supported, no longer has security updates (which couldn’t be applied anyway because of certification requirements) and relies on technology that wasn’t considered “cutting edge” even when it was purchased.