As new attacks and vulnerabilities are being rapidly discovered on expanding defense networks, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has launched a new way to keep pace with attackers with its Cyber Fast Track program to quickly fund cybersecurity research. Cyber Fast Track increases the agency’s agility by looking at unconventional sources, hackers and boutique cybersecurity firms operating on small budgets in their free time, and by awarding small, short-term contracts at a record pace. Since the start of the program 2 months ago, 7 contracts have already been awarded, taking a mean of 7 days for approval with a median of only 4 days as DARPA continues to streamline the funding process. CFT further appeals to these researchers by allowing them to keep commercial intellectual property rights to their work.
According to the Cyber Fast Track research announcement, the program is particularly interested in “efforts with the potential to reduce attack surface areas, reverse current asymmetries, or that are strategic, rather than tactical in nature.” Recent statements from DARPA also suggest that the agency is interested in developing offensive capabilities, which smaller, non-traditional researchers would be better suited to pursue. For legal and cultural reasons, big corporations tend to avoid developing tools and techniques to hack networks.