It’s not easy to protect a highly wired country from cyberattack, given that almost any internet-connected device can be implanted with malware. Once implanted, malware—short for malicious software—can sit undetected on phones, laptops, and Fitbits until activated as part of a broader attack.
DARPA, the US military’s research arm, is on the case. It is investing in ways to find and take down botnets—networks of computers infected with malware—before they are used in the kind of crippling attack that wipes out power or shuts down a corporation. Nextgov reports that DARPA just gave a $1.2 million contract to the cybersecurity firm Packet Forensics to discover new ways to find and identify botnets, which it calls “hidden online armies.” DARPA’s ultimate goal is “to build a system that can automatically pinpoint botnet-infected devices and disable their malware without their owners ever knowing.” In other words, your phone could be invaded by hostile forces, then liberated, without you ever being the wiser.