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FTC Offers $25,000 Reward for IoT Security

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 06, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If this were the Wild West, a $25,000 reward might have caught the attention of a lawman like Wyatt Earp.

Earp, a special marshal and gunslinger, was most famous for the Gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881. In a town called Tombstone, the shootout left three outlaws dead and two lawmen wounded.

But this is not the Wild West, Earp is long gone, and $25,000 isn't exactly an enormous sum of cash these days.

In any case, the Federal Trade Commission has offered $25,000 to anyone who can solve security on the Internet of Everything. Any volunteers?

Why Now?

"We're doing this to stimulate the market," said Ruth Yodaiken, senior attorney in the FTC's Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The FTC is offering the reward to anyone who can fix the security holes in smart gadgets that leave doors open for hackers to get information from unsuspecting consumers. The FTC has warned about the problem for years, publishing a report in 2015 that IoE devices posed enormous security issues for 25 billion devices already connected to the internet.

The problem stems from the proliferation of smart devices, including such things as light bulbs, stereos, televisions, refrigerators, and the kitchen sink, that connect wirelessly without adequate security. Fresh off a Christmas rush, millions of the devices found their way into homes in just the past two weeks. Experts warn that hackers can easily follow.

What Now?

"Every day American consumers are offered innovative new products and services to make their homes smarter," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC bureau. "Consumers want these devices to be secure, so we're asking for creativity from the public -- the tinkerers, thinkers and entrepreneurs--to help them keep device software up-to-date."

The agency has offered the reward as part of the "IoT home Inspector Challenge." The top prize is $25,000 for the best technical solution, and up to $3,000 for honorable mentions.

Contestants need to submit a summary, a video demonstrating how the tool works, and a technical explanation. The contest opens March 1 and closes May 22.

Winners will be announced in late July. Losers will have to get out of Dodge.

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