Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List


Relating to digital systems and information

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Modern society depends on information and information depends on information systems. Timely, insightful, reliable, and relevant information drives success. This is not lost on military leaders who well appreciate the critical importance of information for national security. As Sir Francis Bacon wrote in 1597, “Knowledge is power.”
ARPA research played a central role in launching the “Information Revolution,” including developing or furthering much of the conceptual basis for ARPANET, a pioneering network for sharing digital resources among geographically separated computers. Its initial demonstration in 1969 led to the Internet, whose world-changing consequences unfold on a daily basis today. A seminal step in this sequence took place in 1968 when ARPA contracted BBN Technologies to build the first routers, which one year later enabled ARPANET to become operational.
The 21st century has brought with it the ever more urgent need for automated, scalable, machine-speed vulnerability detection and patching as more and more systems—from household appliances to major military platforms—get connected to, and become dependent upon, the internet. Finding and countering bugs, hacks, and other cyber infection threats have effectively been artisanal: professional bug hunters, security coders, and other security pros work endless hours, searching millions of lines of code to find and fix vulnerabilities that those with ulterior motives can exploit. This is a sluggish process that can no longer can keep pace with the relentless stream of threats.
DARPA rolled out its Memex program to move forward the state of the art in content indexing and web searching on the Internet. Over the next few years, the Memex program yielded new tools that enabled quick and thorough organization of a subset of the Internet, leading to more comprehensive and relevant domain-specific indexing of web content and domain-specific search capabilities. Memex quickly proved its value in efforts to counter human trafficking.

As part of an ARPA-funded experiment to find better ways for computer users to interact with computers, Douglas Engelbart of SRI—who would later work on the DARPA-sponsored ARPANET project, the Internet’s precursor—invented the computer mouse. The first mouse was carved out of wood and had just one button. Later incarnations such as this early Logitech® mouse led to the diversity of mice now on desktops around the world.

The mouse was an early example of many innovations that DARPA would help nurture into various components of the information technology landscape over the next five decades. In What Will Be (HarperCollins, 1997), author Michael Dertouzos credits DARPA with “… between a third and a half of all the major innovations in computer science and technology.”