DARPA announces the Extreme DDoS Defense Program to solicit innovative ways to thwart attacks

Do you think you have what it takes to come up with a really innovative way to mitigate the effects of DDoS attacks? If so, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to hear from you.

Recognizing that DDoS attacks can have serious consequences on businesses as well as government agencies and military branches, the agency issued a broad agency announcement (BAA) to solicit innovative research proposals in the area of resilient defenses against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on computer networks. The Extreme DDoS Defense Program, dubbed XD3, “aims to thwart DDoS attacks by dispersing cyber assets (physically and/or logically), disguising the characteristics and behaviors of those assets, and mitigating the attacks (especially low-volume attacks) that still penetrate the targeted environment.”

DARPA is hoping to generate ideas that are more than just evolutionary steps from today’s state-of-the-industry. According to the announcement, “proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems.”

As shown in the chart below, the XD3 program considers three broad areas of opportunity to improve resilience against DDoS attacks. Each of these opportunities addresses a common aspect of current cyber infrastructure that, according to DARPA, inherently limits the ability to defend against DDoS attacks. 

Those concepts clearly would affect much more than simply how we defend against DDoS attacks. DARPA acknowledges this, saying “These XD3 concepts have broad applicability to a variety of scenarios of interest to the US military and to the broader community, including commercial network service providers, cloud computing and storage service providers, and enterprises of all sizes. Accordingly, responses to this BAA may consider a wide range of possible network and service contexts, to include enterprise networks, wide area networks, wireless networks, cloud computing, and software-defined networks, among others.”

The overriding objective of the XD3 program is to produce the best possible technologies for enabling resilience against DDoS attacks. The government intends for XD3 to be a collaborative program in which all performers constructively interact with one another. A key goal of the program is to establish an open, standards‐based, multi‐source, plug‐and‐play architecture that allows for interoperability and integration.

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