One of the major problems with cyber security is that it can take months before programmers can identify and correct weaknesses exploited by hackers. The two-year DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge aims to change this by tasking participants to design fully automated network security systems capable of discovering and nullifying threats before they occur. The competition is roughly modeled on "capture the flag" computer security tournaments like those organized at Def Con hacking conferences. Such contests usually involve entrants analyzing and exploiting weaknesses present within the other team's systems while protecting their own.

During the first qualifying event in 2015, competitors in the Cyber Grand Challenge will need to have their systems automatically evaluate and secure software sent out by DARPA. Then in 2016's final event, participating teams will be required to have their programs "autonomously create network defenses, deploy patches and mitigations, monitor the network, and evaluate the defenses of competitors." DARPA also released DECREE, an open-source extension designed to provide a safe research platform for the competition. The winners stand to receive $2 million, while those in second place will take home $1 million.