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Pentagon-Funded Games Would Crowdsource Weapons Testing

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Software bugs


The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing Crowdsourced Formal Verification, a set of computer games designed to refine the way weapons systems are tested to ensure they are free from software errors and security bugs.

DARPA says the goal is to create puzzles that are "intuitively understandable by ordinary people" and could be solved on laptops, smartphones, tablets, and consoles. The agency says the games' solutions will be collected into a database and used to improve methods for analyzing software.

Crowdsourcing formal verification would help the Pentagon cut costs while it deals with a shortage of computer security specialists. "This is particularly an issue for the Department of Defense because formal verification, while a proven method for reducing defects in software, currently requires highly specialized talent and cannot be scaled to the size of software found in modern weapon systems," DARPA says.

However, some security professionals are unsure if the program can meet its ambitious goals. It would be more cost-effective for the government to focus efforts on ensuring that software is secure while it is being engineered instead of after it has been deployed in systems, says Cigital's Gary McGraw.

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