welcomes hackers

  • John Blau (IDG News Service)
  • 10 October, 2003 08:05

Two Spanish security experts are inviting computer buffs to participate in a competition to deface a Web site on a production server.

This isn't the first time a group of security professionals has challenged people to hack computer systems, nor will it be the last. What's unusual about this contest, even if it's not unique, is the target: a production server running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 operating system and chock-full with other software, including Microsoft's Outlook Web Access, Firewall-1 NG from Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., Apache 2.0 from the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) and WebTrends Log Analyzer from NetIQ Corp.

The Web site, which also serves as the name of the competition, is The competition is being staged by Hugo Vázquez Caramés and Toni Cortés Martínez , who both work as security experts with Winmat Servicios Sistemes SL, a security consulting firm in Madrid.

With the competition, Carames and Martínez hope to drive home a message to chief technology officers (CTOs) -- namely, that no matter how much money they invest in new security software, the people managing the systems are as important as the software, if not more.

"We want to show that with knowledge and imagination, you can keep out 99.9 percent of hackers," Caramés said in an e-mail. "At the same time, we want to learn how that 0.1 percent is able to break into a hardened system."

So far, no one has, which isn't a huge surprise, considering the competition just began Oct. 1 with no previous promotion. But Caramés said interest is growing, judging by the number of visitors to the site.

It's not the prize -- a used Alpha Station 400 from the former Digital Equipment Corp. -- but the "fun and fame" of hacking the system and "having the hack published everywhere" that will attract people to the competition, Caramés said.

Caramés and Martínez are no strangers to finding bugs in computer systems. As part of their jobs, the security experts have detected security holes in a number of systems, including Microsoft's ISA (Internet Security and Acceleration) server and MSN Hotmail.