DARPA Improv project seeks to weaponize your appliances

DARPA's back with yet another project, and this one aims to turn everyday, benign appliances and other electronics into weapons and other "unanticipated security threats." No, the agency isn't hoping to equip soldiers with modified home appliances — rather, it wants the hive mind to come up with novel and unexplored methods for turning easily accessible devices into things that could threatened national security, helping to bolster preventative technologies.

The idea is that in the modern world, an ordinary person has access to a massive amount of technology, a lot of it unassuming — everything from the toaster on your counter to the door opener in your garage. Most of these things don't pose a risk, at least not in their natural state. That could change with the right modifications, though, and the growing number of possibilities mean more effort is needed to protect against such actions.

Said Improv's manager John Main:

DARPA often looks at the world from the point of view of our potential adversaries to predict what they might do with available technology. Historically we did this by pulling together a small group of technical experts, but the easy availability in today's world of an enormous range of powerful technologies means that any group of experts only covers a small slice of the available possibilities. In Improv we are reaching out to the full range of technical experts to involve them in a critical national security issue.

Project Improv will have experts from a variety of disciplines take on the task of using "easily purchased, relatively benign technologies" to create "serious security threats." The project's name, obviously, comes from the improvised nature of the project. Open source code can also be used as part of the project. The agency seeks working prototypes within three months.