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8/4/2011
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'Mudge' Announces New DARPA Hacker Spaces Program

Former L0pht hacker-turned DARPA executive launches a new federal program to fast-track research by indie and small-firm hackers

BLACK HAT USA 2011 -- Las Vegas -- Peiter "Mudge" Zatko, famed member of the legendary L0pht hacker group, announced the launch here today of a new program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) aimed at funding hacker spaces and research in cybersecurity.

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Mudge, who has been the program manager for the information innovation office at DARPA for a year now, says the idea behind the new DARPA-RA-11-52 initiative is to fast-track security research among independent researchers and small, boutique security firms. The program is called Cyber Fast Track.

"It's time to start funding hacker spaces, labs, and boutique security companies to make it easier to compete with large government contractors" for research money, Mudge said in his keynote address here today. "When I was at L0pht, we all had day jobs and did our [research] in the off-hours of the night … I want a lot of people who are doing cool research work all day long to not have to have day jobs and do their big work at night."

Mudge says the new DARPA-RA-11-52 project will aim to fund somewhere between 20 to 100 projects per year, with a straightforward proposal template that streamlines and simplifies the traditionally onerous application process for DARPA funding. The contracts will be awarded around 10 days from their submission.

"And you get to keep your IP," he said.

It has been difficult for hackers to interface with DARPA with the previous model. "The way the government is set up, it's almost impossible for small boutique firms and hackers to actually say, 'I'm doing cool research work, and how do I get funding without giving up IP to venture capitalists or ownership,' or getting purchased by a large government contractor and your company basically being gutted," he said.

DARPA's Mudge is in the process of traveling around the country visiting hackerspaces and briefing them on the new fast-track program. "What's good for this community is good for DARPA," he said.

The Cyber Fast Track website is here.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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