http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99992250 Will Knight 17:21 03 May 02 NewScientist.com news service Programmers the world over will next week have the chance to "reverse engineer" a mysterious and malicious computer program. They must determine its intentions and test their programming skills. The idea is to simulate the crises network administrators face whenever a rogue program, also known as a Trojan or zombie, is uploaded into a computer system by an intruder. These programs are designed to capture passwords or probe the system for further weaknesses on the intruder's behalf. An administrator must work out what the program does, but without seeing the source code used to build it. "In specific cases, you may encounter something you don't recognise," says Job de Haas, managing director of Dutch company ITSX Security, and one of the competition's judges. "It is important that you can get a feeling for the extent of the compromise and how serious it is." Back to the source The program will be released next week at the link below, but no further information will be provided, not even the language it was written in. Competitors must not only determine the purpose of the program but also figure out ways it could be stopped in its tracks. They will even be asked to guess what kind of person wrote the program. A panel of judges will mark all the entries. The Reverse Challenge is the brainchild of a consortium of computer researchers from different companies and universities known as the Honeypot Project. Reverse engineering involves effectively going backwards through the process of building a computer program. Some programming tools will help with this task but, says De Haas, the process also requires good programming skills. "It's been a very secluded skill that has become more and more mainstream," he says. "An explosion of these [hacking] tools will make this a very needed skill for people in this field." Ian Brown, a computer security researcher at University College London, says this skill is useful for combating all sorts of malicious programs, including computer viruses and worms. "When a new virus, Trojan or zombie is discovered in the wild, its mode of operation, and hence how to defeat it, can be derived without the need for its source code," he explains. But programmers will be competing for more than just kudos. They can win computer security books and entry to the Black Hat Briefings, a US computer security conference. The Honeypot Project has in the past organised competitions requiring competitors to analyse a computer system after a simulated break-in. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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