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America's DARPA to hold secret cyber warfare session next month

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a department of the US Department of Defense (DoD), will hold a meeting late next month to discuss technologies that will help understand, plan, and manage cyberwarfare in large, real-time networks.

Dubbed Plan X, the DoD programme also wants to research technologies that will "support development of fundamental strategies and tactics needed to dominate the cyber battlespace," DARPA said in a note released last week.

According to the agency, however, it will not fund vulnerability analysis or the actual creation of cyber weapons.

During a 27 September workshop in Arlington, VA, DARPA will provide details on Plan X and demo Plan X concepts. Interested parties are invited to show off technology they think would be useful for Plan X; they can register online by 18 September to participate.

Don't expect to just waltz in and learn all about cyber warfare, however. DARPA said the event is not open to the general public or the press. It will include two sessions: an unclassified one in the morning and a classified SECRET session in the afternoon (caps lock emphasis courtesy of DARPA).

Plan X is being carried out via an on-site DARPA cyberwar lab. The effort focuses on four key areas: understand the cyber battlespace, automatically constructing verifiable and quantifiable cyber operations, developing operating systems that can run in hostile environments, and visualising and interacting with large-scale cyber battlespaces.

The project will develop high-level mission plans and a "script" to be used by cyber operations personnel, similar to the auto-pilot function in modern aircraft, DARPA said.

Additionally, DARPA wants to build operating systems and platforms that can operate in "dynamic, contested, and hostile network environments." Calling them "battle units," DARPA said the systems will be able to perform cyberwarface functions like battle damage monitoring, communication relay, weapon deployment, and adaptive defense.

The last area of research supports a virtual cyber battlespace, allowing users to plan and operate with true situational awareness. DARPA is also putting together a system architecture team to lead the end-to-end Plan X system development, according to a release. The team will work with Plan X performers to develop standard programming interfaces and data format specifications.