The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded Vencore Inc. multiple contracts worth $17.7 million to deliver research on cyber defenses against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, the company said March 23.

The company’s research arm, Vencore Labs, will perform the contracts as part of DARPA’s Extreme DDoS Defense (XD3) program over the next three years. The XD3 program aims to develop completely new DDoS defenses that afford greater resilience across a range of DDoS attacks than existing approaches.

DDoS attacks flood a target with superfluous requests in an attempt to overload a system and prevent legitimate users from accessing a service.

Under the contracts Vencore intends to develop a comprehensive solution that will cover the full spectrum of DDoS attack surface. It will perform research on distributed communications and network maneuvering to make it harder for attackers to identify high-value targets and also deny then the feedback needed to determine if an attack was successful. Another set of research will be on DDoS detection and mitigation to help network operators protect critical services from the effects of large-scale Internet of Things (IoT)-based attacks.

IoT includes electronic devices connected to the internet as part of newer features and can include refrigerators, DVRs, smart light bulbs, thermostats, door locks, and more. Vencore highlighted recent IoT-based DDoS attacks caused significant disruption to popular Internet services, notably the attack on internet hosting provider Dyn which caused many popular websites to become inaccessible for hours. This kind of event occurs when hackers use a botnet, a very large set of malware-infected internet devices, to perform a DDoS attack.

“These attacks leverage the widespread and growing deployment of Internet-of-Things devices combined with freely available malicious code to create disruption that easily overwhelms current defensive techniques. This underscores the need for fundamentally new technologies to detect, mitigate and fight through the effects of DDoS attacks on a large scale,” Vencore said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with DARPA to develop innovative techniques to combat these attacks, making it impossible for attackers to damage critical services,” Petros Mouchtaris, president of Vencore Labs, added.