After standing out in 2016 by winning the Cyber Grand Challenge final organized by the American Defense Research Department (DARPA), the start-up ForAllSecure won the Pentagon. The latter equips several of its entities with Maheym technology. The real-time testing and patching capabilities are coupled with a flawed exploitation engine on remote third-party systems.
The Pentagon recently signed a $ 45 million contract with the start-up ForAllSecure. Founded in 2012 and originally from Pittsburg, the company seduced the American defense with its Mayhem platform which plans to use it to secure several critical environments. The contract was signed more precisely with the innovation entity of DARPA, namely the DIU Defense Innovation Unit, to extend the security of its critical systems. This technology will be used in many Pentagon entities, such as the Air Force 96th Cyberspace Test Group, the Air Force 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) as well as the famous US Army Command, Control, Communication , Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center (C5ISR).
The main characteristic of Mayhem is to be an autonomous system to find and exploit bugs in other servers while fixing its own vulnerabilities. The purpose of the system is to patch vulnerabilities on one system while scanning and exploiting vulnerabilities in others. The Mayhem system runs on a Linux x86 environment, whose reliability, robustness and scaling capacities are proven, but an evolution has been made to run on Windows environment.
During the competition, the Mayhem system shipped 2,560 processor cores and 16 TB of RAM. However, discretion as to the on-board equipment remains in place. It must be said that the subject is sensitive. The American Defense is not the only one to have been seduced by Mayhem. This is also what the Chinese and Israeli governments have thought, which have tried to get closer to the start-up. The latter preferred, however, to continue playing at home by responding to contract proposals from the American Defense Research Agency, which was looking for innovative security technology with a military vocation.
A fuzzing technique coupled with “symbolic execution”
Mayhem was developed by the team of Professor David Brumley, from the security laboratory of Carnegie Mellon University, which distinguished itself in the context of an international hack competition organized by the research entity of the department. of the American defense (DARPA) in 2016. As part of this CGC challenge (Cyber Grand Challenge), within DEF Con 24, the price of $ 2 million was won by ForAllSecure while managing to type in the eye of DARPA. “The Cyber Grand Challenge shows that fully autonomous security is possible. Computers can reasonably do a good job. ” The competition was won when 110 teams competed.
This technology is based on fuzzing, consisting in bombarding the target software with randomly generated inputs and commands and also in “symbolic execution”, consisting in creating a simplified mathematical representation of the target software. A double that can be used to analyze and identify potential weaknesses of the real target. The fuzzing technique is not exclusive to Maheym. In 2019, Google, for example, launched a tool of this type that has detected more than 16,000 bugs in Chrome. However, ForAllSecure believes it has a head start by allowing its program to be more scalable thanks to symbolic execution to find more complex bugs.
Creativity and intuitiveness in finding bugs not yet in Mayhem
According to its designers, in particular its CEO David Brumley, this tool helps to help with cybersecurity expertise. If it cannot replace humans, its automation technology saves time on the tiresome work of bug hunting. The teams have know-how, an ability to read code and use ad hoc software, and they show creativity and intuition to discover the flaws, which Mayhem is – for now – lacking.
Used in the framework of the discovery of flaws in an aircraft control system, Mayhem allowed in a few minutes to identify a vulnerability which was verified and patched by the manufacturer of the aircraft. To his credit, Mayhem has also detected other bugs like the one discovered in OpenWRT, used by millions of network terminals, or even Netflix flaws allowing the sending of films from a phone to a television. Since its creation, the ForAllSecure start-up has managed to raise $ 15 million (Series A) from New Enterprise Associates in particular.