High Assurance Cyber Military Systems: A New DARPA Program

Presented as part of the 2012 HCSS conference.


Embedded systems form a ubiquitous, networked, computing substrate that underlies much of modern technological society. Such systems range from large supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that manage physical infrastructure to medical device such as pacemakers and insulin pumps, ton computer peripherals such as printers and routers, to communication devices such as cell phones and radios, to vehicles such as airplanes and satellites. Such devices have been networked for a variety of reasons, including the ability to conveniently access diagnostic information, perform software updates, provide innovative features, lower costs, and improve ease of use. Researchers and hackers have shown that these kinds of networked embedded systems are vulnerable to remote attack, and such attacks can cause physical damage while hiding the effects from monitors.

The goal of the HACMS program is to create technology for the construction of high-assurance cyber-physical systems, where high assurance is defined to mean functionally correct and satisfying appropriate safety and security properties. Achieving this goal requires a fundamentally different approach from what the software community has taken to date. Consequently, HACMS will adopt a clean-slate, formal methods-based approach to enable semi-automated code synthesis from executable, formal specifications. In addition to generating code, HACMS seeks a synthesizer capable of producing a machine-checkable proof that the generated code satisfies functional specifications as well as security and safety policies. A key technical challenge is the development of techniques to ensure that such proofs are composable, allowing the construction of high-assurance systems out of high-assurance components.


Dr. Kathleen Fisher joined DARPA as a program manager in 2011. Her research and development interests relate to programming languages and high assurance systems. Dr. Fisher joined DARPA from Tufts University. Previously, she worked as a Principal Member of the technical staff at AT&T Labs. Dr. Fisher received her Doctor of Philosophy in computer science and her Bachelor of Science in math and computational science from Stanford University.

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Kathleen Fisher

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