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Sunday, December 10 2017 @ 09:52 PM CST

The FTC announces two new robocall contests

The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Terminator 2… Don’t you just love a good sequel? The FTC does, too, and that’s why the agency is returning to DEF CON with a new robocall challenge.


Zapping Rachel, our 2014 contest, challenged security experts to build tools that investigators could use to track and minimize illegal robocalls. For 2015, the agency is hosting Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back, a contest that asks tech gurus to create tools people can use to block or forward unwanted robocalls automatically. Forwarded calls will go to a honeypot — a data collection system that researchers and investigators can use to study the calls. We’re offering up to $50,000 in prize money for the best solutions, with $25,000 going to the first place winner.

Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back Logo

The contest has two phases: a qualifying phase and a final phase. Contestants can get started right away on the first phase, which ends June 15, 2015. The top five scorers will move on to the final phase, which ends at DEF CON 23 on August 8, 2015.

The FTC also announced today that, as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 6, 2015, the agency is challenging the tech-savvy public to DetectaRobo. For this challenge, contestants will use call data to develop an algorithm that predicts which calls are likely to be robocalls. Submissions are due June 7, 2015.

DetectaRobo Logo

Each contest has its own website with more information, including rules, criteria, and judges. Visit ftc.gov/strikeback for the DEF CON challenge and ftc.gov/detectarobo for the National Day of Civic Hacking contest.

These contests are part of the FTC’s larger efforts to combat illegal robocalls, a problem that has grown worse since advances in technology have made it easy for robocallers to send out thousands of calls every minute and to display fake caller ID information.

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