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Drone security project to go open source

DARPA project to stop droneware being hacked will see some software freed

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Australia’s high end tech research engine NICTA will take a pivotal role in an US$18 million US Defence project which will develop software to protect the systems in drones from cyber attack.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded the 4.5 year contract to a global consortium, which includes Australia's NICTA, the Boeing Company, Galois, the University of Minnesota and led by Rockwell Collins. A team of six to eight dedicated NICTA researchers will be placed on the project with more staff added at peak times in the project.

The project is part of DARPA’s High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) program, hatched earlier this year to produce ultra secure systems that are resilient to emerging cyber threats.

The HACMS program will focus on cyber-physical systems in the vehicle space, but it is anticipated that the tools and techniques developed in the program will be relevant to other kinds of systems as well.

The HACMS project will produce a set of open source tools integrated into a software workbench, which will be widely distributed for use in both the commercial and defense software sectors, according to DARPA.

A NICTA spokesperson said that the project will be using open source as much as possible but the specific elements are still being worked out.

The work will be undertaken by the same group of NICTA scientists that developed the internationally recognised, game changing , seL4 operating system. In 2009, NICTA researchers grabbed the global spotlight when they proved the correctness of 7,500 lines of C code in the seL4 operating system microkernel.

“NICTA’s selection for this project reflects our status as world leaders in the verification of operating systems. Now we will have the opportunity to greatly extend the scale, aiming to ensure the safety of a complete, real-world system, something considered impossible only a few years ago,” said Leader of NICTA’s Software Systems Research Group , Scientia Professor Gernot Heiser.

Key HACMS technologies include semi-automated software synthesis systems, verification tools such as theorem provers and model checkers, and specification languages.

HACMS aims to produce a set of publicly available tools integrated into a high-assurance software workbench, widely distributed to both defense and commercial sectors.

In the defense sector, HACMS plans to enable high-assurance military systems ranging from unmanned ground, air and underwater vehicles, to weapons systems, satellites, and command and control devices. ®

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