Feeds

Feds salute plucky human ROBOT-FIGHTERS

Winners of DEFCON robocall-crushing competition showered in cash, praise

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced over US$12,000 in prizes in its “Zapping Rachel” robocall contest, which was held at this year's DEFCON hacking conference in Las Vegas.

The FTC has been on something of a crusade against the curse of the robocall, both because they are illegal and also because it receives around 100,000 complaints about them each month. The competition was set up to bring the best hacking brains to bear on the problem and the FTC said it was well satisfied with the results.

“Congratulations to all the winners and honorable mentions of our Zapping Rachel contest,” said Jessica Rich, director, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“We were thrilled with the level of interest and participation, particularly from DEFCON attendees. We look forward to furthering our dialogue with this community on the development of robocall honeypots, and any other tools that can help win the fight against illegal robocalls.”

The contest was split into three levels. The first level, dubbed Creator, was to build a honeypot that can tell if a caller is using a spoofed ID, a common tactic of robocallers. Jon Olawski, cofounder of Ape Security won $3,133.70 from the FTC by building a system using an audio captcha filter, call detail analysis, and recording and transcription analysis to finger robotic callers.

The second phase, which the FTC called Attacker, "called on contestants to pretend to be robocallers and work out a way to avoid honeypots built to entrap them. Jan Volzke, CEO of anti-phone spam firm NUMBERCOP took the $3,133.70 with an Android robocall-dialer named "Droid Rachel," that was able to avoid honeypots.

"The phone channel has become the weakest link in protecting individuals and businesses from scams and fraud," Volzke said. "The FTC's appearance at DEF CON was very well received and I was happy to share my insights and ideas on how to eradicate robocalls."

The final Detective phase of the contest called on entrants to analyze two sets of data from an existing honeypot and build an algorithm that can split robocalls and those from flesh and blood humans.

The $3,133.70 prize was won by Yang Yang and Jens Fischer, but the judges also awarded two honorable mention awards of $1,337 to Sean Beck and DarkTyphoon for their entries. In all 60 teams and individuals entered the competition.

The FTC isn't going to use any of the idea to build its own system to pull the plug on robocallers. Instead it hopes private companies will use the techniques the contest produced to make products that will, hopefully, make such calls much easier to jam. ®

The next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.