Hackers are always getting better at what they do, and it’s a safe bet that any time a new security program is developed, or a new weakness is discovered, they’ll find a way to exploit it. The most recent development in hacking technology is the algorithmic attack, which target the very rules and calculations that govern how computers work. These attacks can be incredibly dangerous, gleaning data that is otherwise unacceptable, or even tricking computers into overworking themselves by processing too much data.

At the moment, algorithmic attacks are very expensive, time consuming, and difficult to pull off, which means that most hackers don’t have access to them, and the real threat comes from those who are supported by nations. However, that could change in the future as the technology to pull off these attacks becomes more refined and, almost inevitably, is leaked to other hackers. Researchers are concerned that, if this technology makes it way into the hands of more hackers, they’ll begin using algorithmic attacks on a wider range of targets. More hackers also makes it that much harder to track down the culprits, too.

The federal government, specifically the Department of Defense, has granted $3 million in funding to researchers from the University of Utah and the University of California, Irvine, to try and develop ways to stop such attacks. The military is understandably concerned about the dangers that such attacks might pose. Being unable to prevent hacks that could capture important security data or shut down the computers they use to control drones or other hardware could be devastating.

Currently, the team is working on developing software to scan and detect weaknesses that could be exploited by algorithmic attacks. Since those attacks don’t need much in the way of a weakness, current security technology isn’t sufficient. Once they develop a program to scan for potential “hot spots” in existing code, they will begin running tests to determine the effects of algorithmic attacks on that code.


Martin Ackerman is a freelance writer and current editor originally from Staten Island, NY. His university schooling focused on English education and Japanese. He has a (not so secret) passion for art history and political science. When he isn't writing or editing you can find him at sci-tech conventions, building the latest LEGO city or pampering his cat, Tea. You can follow him on Twitter @MarMackerman.