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The Dawn Project was founded by Dan O’Dowd, the world’s leading expert in creating software that never fails and can’t be hacked. Dan created the secure operating systems for projects including Boeing’s 787s, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Fighter Jets, the Boeing B1-B Intercontinental Nuclear Bomber, and NASA’s Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.
Dan has been a pioneer of making safety-critical software systems unhackable since his days at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Dan graduated from Caltech in 1976 with a Bachelors of Science in Engineering. Now Dan is a recipient of the Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award, which is the highest honorary which Caltech bestows upon a graduate.
Dan’s expertise in creating the most secure operating systems in the world led him to found The Dawn Project, which is dedicated to making computers truly safe for humanity.
Dan O’Dowd, Dawn Project Founder
In the last decade a vast number of the critical computer-controlled systems that human life depends upon have been connected to the Internet with software riddled with millions of bugs and security defects.
The result? Power grids, hospitals, oil & gas pipelines, water treatment plants, traffic lights, cars, trucks, and trains are at the mercy of hackers, rogue states, terrorists and other bad actors. With relative ease, they can exploit these defects to disable, destroy, or commandeer our essential systems. It is an existential threat to humanity as great as climate change and as apocalyptic as nuclear Armageddon. The threat is charted in the meticulously researched and award-winning books This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth and Click Here to Kill Everybody by Bruce Schneier.
The Iron Law of Security says that an insecure system can never be made secure no matter how much time or money you throw at it. That law forces a terrifying and hugely inconvenient truth upon humanity. Much of the software currently running our world can never be made secure.
Human communities cannot survive without critical infrastructure. If it breaks down or is held to ransom, food can’t be transported to supermarkets, or electricity and water supplied to houses and offices. Within weeks families would huddle together in the cold and dark, deprived of food and clean water.
Humanity is startlingly vulnerable as long as hackers can disable, destroy, or commandeer our critical infrastructure by exploiting the millions of bugs and security defects in the software that runs the world. This is not an acceptable situation for us to be in.
The software that runs the world must be made secure
Computers must be made truly safe for humanity
All the software in safety critical systems must be replaced with software that never fails and can’t be hacked
Many software security experts would undoubtedly question whether this laudable aim is possible. They would sincerely claim all software has bugs and every system can be hacked. Their experience would bear that out. However, their experience would be based on consumer and civilian systems. If they were to focus, for instance, on software for nuclear weapons systems they would think differently.
In 1997 Dan won the contract to deliver his operating system to run the B1-B Intercontinental Nuclear Bomber, a weapon of mass destruction where one error could vaporize a city. The operating system controls everything in the plane: flight controls, navigation, communications, and weapons systems. Dan delivered it to Boeing and supported it himself until it was flying. More than 20 years later, it is still flying the B1-B.
The Dawn Methodology soon became the standard for developing software for weapons of mass destruction by winning contracts for the B-2 Stealth bomber, the B-52 bomber, as well as the F-16, F-22, and F-35 fighter jets.
The Dawn Methodology secures our nuclear forces, military aircraft and missiles, top secret encryption devices, and communications equipment. It also flies the Boeing 787 and the A380 commercial airliners.
Recently, Dan used The Dawn Methodology to build an unhackable laptop for the FBI, an unhackable cell phone for the military, and to secure safety systems in every General Motors car for model years 2020 to 2023.
None of these systems has ever failed or been hacked. That is the way to develop the software for the systems that our lives depend on.