On Aug. 4, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense) held the finals for its Cyber Grand Challenge competition at DefCon in Las Vegas. Played by seven computerized finalists running on small supercomputers, the competition was the world's first all-machine hacking tournament. Placing second in the Cyber Grand Challenge, which was whittled down to seven finalists out of an initial field of roughly 120, was the team TECHx, led by Grammatech, Inc., in partnership with the University of Virginia. TECHx secured a $1 million prize.
Grammatech has strong UW-Madison ties. It was cofounded by UW-Madison Professor of Computer Sciences Tom Reps in 1988, and its current VP of research is UW alum David Melski (BS ’94, MS ’96, PhD ’02). Grammatech is headquartered in Ithaca, New York, with a regional office in Madison.
Melski spearheaded the TECHx team, competing with its system, Xandra. Among other feats, Xandra exposed a bug that was unknown to DARPA itself, which created each round of competition. Congrats to Melski (pictured below holding the award) and the rest of the TECHx team on their amazing work!
3-minute video profile of the TECHx team (click the turquoise hexagon to watch)