About Us

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

Dan O’Dowd, Dawn Project Founder

The Problem

Computers have become a grave threat to humanity since they have been hooked up to the internet together with every safety critical device. Ordinary commercial software was never intended to be used in systems which people’s lives depend on. When the worst consequences that can result from a bug in software is that you need to reboot your computer or lose some data, the ‘move fast and break things’ policy, which is prevalent at nearly every tech company today, is the road to immense riches. But now an immense body of software developed under the ‘move fast and break things’ policy dominates the software in our cars, the power grid, water plants and chemical factories.

The consequences of a single error in any of this software can now be exploited to easily disable, destroy or commandeer everything our lives depend on. Ordinary commercial software is riddled with bugs and security defects. These can easily be purchased from hackers, enabling any dictator or billionaire to destroy our critical infrastructure, like the electric power grid, leaving us shivering and starving in the dark.

The survival of modern civilization and 8 billion people whose lives depend on it now requires that the software that runs the world never fails and can’t be hacked.

Unfortunately, the software that now runs the world is deeply defective. We have been living in the first age of software development; it is like the night. Software stumbles forward, frequently tripping, we fear the wild animals of the night: the hackers and criminals that steal our money, privacy and personal information who can now kill us all with a click of a mouse.

Connecting the power grid, hospitals, and millions of cars to the Internet with software riddled with millions of bugs and security defects has turned these systems into weapons of mass destruction. Hackers can use these systems to kill more people than an intercontinental nuclear bomber. 

The Solution

With 40 years of experience in writing software for companies requiring the highest level of security, Dan has a unique understanding of the problems with modern society’s deep reliance on highly connected technology. Healthcare, communications, transportation, water treatment plants, and power grids are all reliant on connected systems built on software with myriad security flaws, creating opportunities for malicious actors to bring critical systems to their knees. For example, in 2019, the WannaCry ransomware attack locked 200,000 British National Health Service computers, with an estimated cost of £92m, as well as impacting railway company Deutsche Bahn, LATAM Airlines and Telefonica.

Whereas the majority of software developers will state that building a system that cannot fail or be hacked is impossible, the reality is different. With a clear understanding of project requirements and a rigorous process in which only features that are proven to be reliable, safe, secure, and absolutely necessary, it is possible to build systems that do not fail and cannot be hacked. Where we rely on these systems for the continued functioning of society, it is unacceptable for them to run on flawed commercial software. They should be rebuilt from the ground up with security in mind.

The Dawn Project aims to make computers safe for humanity, by making safety-critical software systems unhackable.

We must convince the CEOs and Boards of Directors of all the companies that build systems that our lives depend on to rewrite all their software so it is as safe and secure as if it were for an intercontinental nuclear bomber.

And we must do it now. The clock is ticking down to Cyber Armageddon.

Why Is It Called The Dawn Project?

The aim of The Dawn Project is to bring Software from the Dark of Night to the Light of Day. 

We have been living in the first age of software development. It is like the night. It is pitch dark. Software stumbles forward, frequently tripping and falling on its face. Software reliability and security is a nightmare.

We fear the wild animals of the night: the hackers and criminals and spies that steal our money, our privacy, our personal information, and our technology. And now they can kill us all with the click of a mouse.

Over the last 46 years, Dan has developed a new software development methodology, The Dawn Methodology. It has been used to secure our nuclear forces, our military and commercial aircraft, and our top secret encryption devices and communications equipment. Recently, Dan used The Dawn Methodology to build a secure laptop computer for FBI field agents, a secure cell phone for the military, and to secure safety systems in every General Motors car for model years 2020 to 2023.

This is a good start to making safety-critical and security-critical systems never fail and never be hacked. But the electric power grid, nearly all the cars, trucks, trains, hospitals, oil & gas pipelines, water treatment plants, and even voting machines are running software that fails frequently and is easy to hack.

There is now light in the software world, but it is still mostly dark.

When The Dawn Methodology is deployed universally, software will be in the bright light of day. All software will be able to see the pitfalls and avoid tripping and falling on its face. The software that our lives depend on will never fail and no one will be able to hack it. We will be able to see the wild animals coming at us and dispatch them before they can reach us.

Our goal is to use The Dawn Methodology to bring software from the dark of night into the light of day. That’s why it’s called “The Dawn Project.”

Dawn Campaigns

The Dawn Project is campaigning to ban unsafe software from safety critical systems, which could be targeted by military-style hackers to cause chaos to our society, starting with the following key industries:

  • Transportation
  • Healthcare
  • Communications
  • Water treatment plants
  • Power grids

 

We are suffering more – and more severe – cyberattacks on our critical infrastructure because our infrastructure uses lots of software that was never intended for safety-critical systems.

The aim of The Dawn Project is to stop the use of commercial grade software in safety-critical systems.

Attackers can easily purchase one of the thousands of security defects in this software that are available for sale by hackers. The attackers exploit the defect to get inside the system, take control, and wreak havoc.

The first phase of this initiative is to convince the technology giants to adopt the principle that software that was not originally developed as safety-critical software must not be used in safety-critical systems.

Our first campaign is targeting Tesla full self-driving cars.

The Dawn Project has analyzed many hours of YouTube videos made by users of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving. Read our conclusions here.

We recently advertised our findings in a full-page advertisement in The New York Times.

The Dawn Project is offering $10,000 to the first person who can name another commercial product from a Fortune 500 company that has a critical malfunction every 8 minutes. To apply, and for full Terms and Conditions, please click here.

To download the verification documents for our claims about Tesla full self-driving please click the links below:

Dawn Project ad