‘Cash-for-viruses' contest slammed

A cash-for-viruses competition launched today by US startup GateKeeper has been described as 'ridiculous and dangerous' by an antivirus software rival.

A cash-for-viruses competition launched today by US startup GateKeeper has been described as “ridiculous and dangerous” by an antivirus software rival.

Virginia-based GateKeeper is offering $US100 to virus writers who can get past its email gateway. A further $US9900 will be paid if virus writers reveal how the virus was created and provide its source code. It’s the second time the company has staged the challenge, which has been called a dodgy marketing ploy by UK-based antivirus company Sophos.

Sophos Australia and New Zealand head Richard Baldry says GateKeeper’s stunt is dangerous. “The established members of the antivirus industry all co-operate and exchange information,” Baldry says. So this is very dangerous, for someone who claims to be part of the antivirus industry to encourage people to write viruses.”

GateKeeper says it requires all prospective virus writers to register before the competition, and keeps forensic copies of all received emails. Last year the company was forced to pay out to two US programmers after they got past GateKeeper’s security.

“There’s a distinct difference between what GateKeeper is trying to do and when RSA, the encryption company, challenged people to break its encryption algorithm. When an algorithm is broken, that’s the end of the matter, and the company can go off and fix it,” says Baldry. “But with a virus, once it’s been written, it’s out of the box.”

GateKeeper says it rejects the notion that it is irresponsibly encouraging the spread of viruses.

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