'$1m hacking challenge' product is flawed

AlphaShield cracks

AlphaShield's "unhackable" consumer security device isn't unhackable, Spanish white hat hackers claim.

In a post to BugTraq, Infohacking.com reports that AlphaShield's appliances are prone to a flaw that could allow a cracker to inject packets into an established session. Potentially, this compromises the security of the device.

Infohacking.com recently evaluated the AlphaShield device. Faced with little technical information it took AlphaShield apart. Upon scraping off the black enamel, the organisation found the appliance was using three Realtek's RTL8019 (Ethernet interface) and Ubicom's SX52BD chip.

Aha, they thought.

A brief search suggested the Ubicom chips had little memory - making it difficult for the device to track user sessions, at least effectively.

Subsequent tests by Hugo Vázquez Caramés and Toni Cortés Martínez, of Infohacking.com, revealed flaws in the stateless tracking used by the device, resulting in a security risk.

Canadian firm AlphaShield (formerly Saafnet) rose to prominence in early 2001 with plans to run a hacking contest that summer offering a cool $1 million to anyone able to compromise its AlphaShield product.

We never heard anything more about the contest, and AlphaShield is yet to respond to Infohacking.com's security advisory.

Hacking challenges

Noted encryption guru Bruce Schneier has questioned the whole basis of hacking contests, noting that a technology is isn't necessarily secure, just because it hasn't been hacked during a contest.

Perhaps the best example of the fallacy of such contests comes from the events that unfolded after ethical hackers muzzled Argus Systems' Pit Bull technology during a hacking challenge in April 2001.

Argus Systems promised to pay $50,000 when Poland's Last Stage of Delirium won its FOURTH hacking challenge, timed to coincide with London's Infosecurity Show.

Months on, Last Stage of Delirium has only received $5,000 of its promised $50,000 bounty and has more or less abandoned hope that Argus will ever make good on its word... ®

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