The United States' experimental research wing – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – has been working on new technology that will essentially change cyberwarfare in a big way. According to Wired, DARPA's new cyberwarfare program, called Plan X, aims to make cyberwarfare as easy as playing a simple mobile game.

Cyberattacks that can cause massive damage tend to be very unpredictable. Some of the most famous ones have been assembled by small teams of hackers. Despite months of planning, the effects still have a certain level of uncertainty. DARPA wants to change that with Plan X. The aim seems to be to make cyberwarfare simple. In a way, this could potentially work as a deterrent to cyberattacks when one simply has to push a button on an app to counter-attack.

DARPA wants to make cyberattacks easier to understand and use (image credit: US Navy)

DARPA wants to make cyberattacks easier to understand and use (image credit: US Navy)

“Plan X is a program that is specifically working towards building the technology infrastructure that would allow cyber offense to move from the world we’re in today — where it’s a fine, handcrafted capability that requires exquisite authorities to do anything… to a future where cyber is a capability like other weapons,” said DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar. “A military operator can design and deploy a cyber effect, know what it’s going to accomplish… and take an appropriate level of action.”

In order to facilitate this, DARPA aims to have the software be as easy to use as an iPhone. “The attacks have to be as easy to launch as an Angry Bird,” believes DARPA.

“Say you’re playing World of Warcraft, and you’ve got this type of sword, +5 or whatever. You don’t necessarily know what spells were used to create that sword, right? You just know it has these attributes and it helps you in this way. It’s the same type of concept. You don’t need the technical details,” said Cybersecurity Specialist Dan Roelker. In the past, Roelker has helped develop some of the most widely-used intrusion detecton software. He came up with the idea for Plan X and joined DARPA.

The Pentagon hasn't been blind to how games work. Apparently, Roelker had earlier hired some gaming industry veterans to start imagining how Plan X would work. From there, the team started reaching out to some of the best designers and developers in Silicon Valley to get a mock-up of a graphical UI for network battle.

Many prototypes were made; prototypes using Google Glass-esque wearable computers, those with a virtual reality headset, and even those using the Xbox 360's Kinect.

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