Vencore Labs has been awarded multiple contracts from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to deliver research in the area of cyber defenses against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
The contracts have a $17.7 million value and will be performed as part of DARPA’s Extreme DDoS Defense (XD3) program over the next three years.
The threat of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks has been well-recognized in the data networking world for two decades.
Such attacks are orchestrated by sets of networked hosts that collectively act to disrupt or deny access to information, communications or computing capabilities, generally by exhausting critical resources such as bandwidth, processor capacity or memory of targeted resources.
The nature of DDoS attacks can span a wide range. Botnet-induced volumetric attacks, which can generate hundreds of gigabits per second of malicious traffic, are perhaps the best-known form of DDoS.
However, low-volume DDoS attacks can be even more pernicious and problematic from a defensive standpoint. Such attacks target specific applications, protocols or state-machine behaviors while relying on traffic sparseness (or seemingly innocuous message transmission) to evade traditional intrusion-detection techniques.
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The current art in DDoS defense generally relies on combinations of network-based filtering, traffic diversion and ”scrubbing” or replication of stored data (or the logical points of connectivity used to access the data) to dilute volumetric attacks and/or to provide diverse access for legitimate users.
In general, these existing approaches fall well short of desired capabilities in terms of response times, the ability to identify and to thwart low-volume DDoS, the ability to stop DDoS within encrypted traffic and the need to defend real-time transactional services such as those associated with cloud computing and military command and control.
The goal of the XD3 program is to develop fundamentally new DDoS defenses that afford greater resilience across a broad range of DDoS attacks than existing approaches.
Several recent DDoS attacks have caused widespread disruption to popular Internet services. These attacks leverage the widespread and growing deployment of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices combined with freely available malicious code to create disruption that easily overwhelms current defensive techniques.
This underscores the need for fundamentally new technologies to detect, mitigate and fight through the effects of DDoS attacks on a large scale.
Under the contract, Vencore Labs plans to develop a comprehensive solution that covers the full spectrum of the DDoS attack surface.
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Research on distributed communications and network maneuvering will make it harder for attackers to identify high-value targets, and will deny them the critical feedback they need to determine whether an attack is successful.
Research on DDoS detection and mitigation will help network operators protect critical services from the effects of large scale IoT-based attacks.
“Through the advancement of IoT devices, the threat landscape is expanding, and our defenses need to evolve accordingly,” said Petros Mouchtaris, Ph.D., president of Vencore Labs.
“We look forward to working with DARPA to develop innovative techniques to combat these attacks, making it impossible for attackers to damage critical services.”
This new work draws on Vencore Labs’ expertise with defending and securing large-scale, heterogeneous computer networks. Additionally, the Vencore Labs team will bring a deep-rooted legacy in protecting mission-critical systems and national cyber infrastructure to the project.
Vencore is a proven provider of information solutions, engineering and analytics for the U.S. Government.
With more than 40 years of experience working in the defense, civilian and intelligence communities, Vencore and its transformational applied research organization, Vencore Labs, design, develop and deliver high impact, mission-critical services and solutions to overcome its customers most complex problems.