Microsoft has kicked off a contest aimed at turning the tables on hackers by offering big money prizes for innovative tactics to foil cyber attacks.
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The Black Hat conference aims to “bring together thought leaders from all facets” of the information security world.
According to the competition website, the BlueHat contest prize is “designed to generate new ideas for defensive approaches to support computer security”.
“As the risk of criminal attacks on private and government computer systems continues to increase, Microsoft recognizes the need to stimulate research in the area of defensive computer security technology,” said Microsoft Trustworthy Computer Group general manager Matt Thomlinson.
“Our interest is to promote a focus on developing innovative solutions rather than discovering individual issues,” he continued.
Microsoft opted to offer prizes for defending against entire types of cyber attacks instead of simple paying “bounties” to those that discover individual computer bugs.
The contest also differs from the practise of certain companies hiring individuals who expose security flaws in their online infrastructure.
BlueHat promised more than US$250 000 dollars in cash and other prizes to software savants at young as 14 years old.
The theme for the first year of the contest is preventing hacks exploiting computer memory vulnerabilities.
Microsoft said it hoped the contest would inspire contributions from researchers, security professionals, and even young hackers.
“Some of the value in this prize is beyond money; it is inspiring not just the current generation but the next generation,” said Microsoft lead security strategist Katie Moussouris.
“We have found that some of our best defenders come from the opposite side of the security coin,” she added.
BlueHat Prize entries will be evaluated by an internal panel of judges at Microsoft, with US$200 000 going to the top submission and US$50 000 awarded to the second place finisher.
The third-place prize will be a subscription to Microsoft services worth US$10 000.
BlueHat winners will be revealed at the 2012 Black Hat gathering in Las Vegas.–AFP with additional staff reporting.