Military Embedded Systems

DARPA launches GAPS to create physical guarantees when exchanging secure data


January 21, 2019

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

DARPA launches GAPS to create physical guarantees when exchanging secure data
DARPA photo

ARLINGTON, Va. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) officials kicked of the Guaranteed Architecture for Physical Security (GAPS) program, which aims to develop hardware and software architectures that can provide physically provable guarantees around high-risk transactions, or where data moves between systems of different security levels.

DARPA wants to ensure that these transactions are isolated and that the systems they move across are enabled with the necessary data security assertions. The intended outputs of this program are hardware and software co-design tools that allow data separation requirements to be defined during design, and protections that can be physically enforced at system runtime.

GAPS is divided into three research areas that will address:

  1. The creation of hardware components and interfaces;
  2. The development of software co-design tools; and,
  3. The integration of these components and tools, as well as their validation against exemplar Department of Defense (DoD) systems.

The new hardware components and interfaces are designed to provide system designers with a library of hardware tools to securely isolate data during transactions. The software co-design tools could someday allow developers to easily employ GAPS hardware components without requiring changes to their existing development processes and frameworks. Finally, the integration and validation of the hardware and software architectures on DoD systems could be used to demonstrate the capability and maturity of the GAPS approach for the kinds of problems DoD system integrators currently face, and expect to see in the future.

The program also targets the commercial industry with the end-goal to commercialize the resulting technologies to help create safer commercial systems that could be used for preserving proprietary information and protecting consumer privacy.

GAPS is part of the second phase of DARPA’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) - a five-year, upwards of $1.5 billion investment in the future of domestic, U.S. government and defense electronics systems. Under ERI Phase II, DARPA is exploring the development of trusted electronics components, including the advancement of electronics that can enforce security and privacy protections. GAPS will help address the DoD’s unique requirements for assured electronics while helping to move forward ERI’s broader mission of creating a more robust, secure and heavily automated electronics industry.

DARPA scheduled a Proposers Day on January 23, 2019 at the e DARPA Conference Center in  Arlington, Virginia. For details on the event, including registration requirements, please visit:

A Broad Agency Announcement that fully describes the GAPS program structure and objectives can be found here:


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