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Apple, Microsoft, Dell, IBM and others introduce monthly security challenge!


© March 2008 Anthony Lawrence

Today a consortium of hardware and software vendors announced that they will be funding a non-profit organization that will design and offer monthly security challenges similar to the one that recently discovered a major problem in OS X. Anthony Lawrence, the newly appointed Director of Operations for this organization, explained that the motives of the funding companies aren't entirely altruistic:


Actually, they all realize that there are mutual benefits. So much software exists across multiple platforms that an exploit on one platform probably exists on another. Even if it doesn't, the concept of the exploit may point out danger points in other operating systems.

We hope that there may be other benefits. Because we are offering large cash prizes for demonstrated exploits, our hope us that at least some black hat hackers might be persuaded to augment their income by winning these contests rather than using their knowledge for illegal purposes. Even if that doesn't happen, many underground, "zero day" exploits will surely be brought to light by these challenges.

The challenges will be held monthly and will have prizes running from $5,000 to $50,000.00. All manner of hardware and operating systems will be included, from iPhones and Blackberries right up through supercomputers. Precise rules and the prizes offered will be published a month ahead and each contest will run until the prize is won, so Mr. Lawrence expects that there may be multiple contests running concurrently at one point. The contests will be similar to other contests where the prize for a "hands off" hack is higher than those that require user involvement or third party applications.

There's another slant to these contests: the "Duh Awards" for security lapses that should not have happened. These are tongue-in-cheek awards to companies and individuals who make egregious security slips or repeat the same mistake again. Lawrence explained that these are supposed to be in a spirit of fun ("We all make dumb mistakes sometimes", he noted) but also hopefully will provide extra incentive to be careful in code.

The first contest is expected to be announced in July of this year. Lawrence explained that because of the number of companies involved and their generous commitment to improving security, the available prize pool exceeds $100,000 per month.. "That should be enough to attract plenty of interest", he opined.

Yes, it is April first. But wouldn't this actually be a wonderful idea?


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Tue Apr 1 15:13:21 2008: 3928   JonR


I don't know the last time I "bought" an April Fool's prank, but I unashamedly confess I fell into this trap.

Dang! I think it would be a great idea, and would very much like to see it happen. Is it too much to hope for? It seems to me such a watchdog effort would pay big dividends indeed for all users and most manufacturers. (Note the "most.")

Now I wish it weren't April 1.






Tue Apr 1 15:22:10 2008: 3930   TonyLawrence

gravatar
Well, so do I. Not that I'd want the job (I like working for myself, thank you), but I really would like to see something like this done. Heck, if the big guys just each ponied up the cost of one engineer monthly - or even half that - you'd have quite a pile of cash to work with. Might need a bit to kick start it, but on-going costs could be pretty low.



Tue Apr 1 16:08:44 2008: 3931   JonR


I wonder if any readers of this blog just might have contacts that could get such a project off the ground. Now would be a really opportune moment, with the widely reported results of the MacOS/Vista/Linux exploit challenge in public consciousness.

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