Alex Constantine - May 26, 2010
By Lewis Page | The Register | May 2010
Our old friends at DARPA - the US military research bureau - have broached another intriguing and mildy upsetting scheme this week. This time the Pentagon boffins want nothing less than some kind of automated witch-finder technology able to finger "increasingly sophisticated malicious insider behavior" in the USA.
According to the US National Counterintelligence Strategy, “Trusted insiders ... are targeting the US information infrastructure for exploitation, disruption, and potential destruction”.
DARPA aren't having any of that, hence their new and sinisterly named Suspected Malicious Insider Threat Elimination (SMITE) project. The warboffins state:
We define insider threat as malevolent (or possibly inadvertent) actions by an already trusted person with access to sensitive information and information systems and sources.
Unspecified "technology" is to be developed to root out the traitors and incompetents menacing the US information infrastructure from within. The DARPA IT directors don't offer any details on how this is to be done, but they do give some general ideas:
Security is often difficult because the defenses must be perfect, while the attacker needs to find only one flaw. An emphasis on forensics could reverse the burden by requiring the attacker and his tools to be perfect, while the defender needs only a few clues to recognize an intrusion is underway.
Topics of interest include ... suggestions about what evidence might mean and [ways to] forecast context-dependent behaviors both malicious and non-malicious.
Also of interest are on-line and off-line algorithms for feature extraction and detection in enormous graphs (as in billions of nodes) as well as hybrid engines where deduction and feature detection mutually inform one another.
It will no doubt be a comfort for anyone in a position of trust within the US information infrastructure to know that mighty military algorithms and hybrid engines will soon sniff your every move so as to forecast any context-dependent malice on your part - and then in some unspecified way (remember what the E in SMITE stands for) eliminate you as a threat.
But this is DARPA, so there's every chance that SMITE will never happen - or that if it does it will mutate into something completely different from what its creators intended.
Full details in pdf here.