And DARPA Shall SMITE The Wicked

SMITE (Suspected Malicious Insider Threat Elimination) is a new DARPA program intended to dynamically forecast when deadly moles deep within government departments will likely strike.

The fundamental challenge is one of finding a poorly understood, subtle, or hidden signal (indicators of malicious behavior) buried in enormous amounts of noise (observational data of no immediate relevance) under the constraint that the measures of significance are themselves moving targets (based on dynamic context) that must be continually monitored and updated. The first step in meeting this challenge is to create a scalable, distributed infrastructure to securely collect, store, access, process, and correlate relevant data from heterogeneous sources over extended periods of time. The next step is to determine whether an individual or group of individuals is exhibiting anomalous behavior that is also malicious. However, this analysis is very heavily dependent on the context of the individual, groups of individuals and any data involved. Furthermore, context (e.g., location, time, roles and relations) is dynamic and so must be continually inferred, managed and applied automatically. Part of the challenge is detecting deceptive behavior. Deceptive behavior is characteristic of malicious intent which leads to the problem of assigning intent to observed behaviors.

Looking for clues that suggest an insider attack 1) can be anticipated, 2) is underway or 3) has already taken place could potentially be easier than recognizing explicit attacks. On the other hand, in both the real and virtual world, it is very difficult to do anything without leaving some evidence behind. Attempts to conceal or remove evidence generally create new evidence that, if detected, could be a strong indication of the perpetrator’s intent. 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.

Fans of Philip K. Dick are always interested when government agencies try to set up their own precrime analytical wing (whether they make use of precogs or not):

Doors opened and closed, and they were in the analytical wing. Ahead of them rose impressive banks of equipment - the data-receptors, and the computing mechanisms that studied and restructured the incoming material. And beyond the machinery sat the three precogs, almost lost to view in the maze of wiring...

From Wired via Frolix_8.

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