Two Spanish security experts are inviting computer buffs to participate in a competition to deface a website on a production server.
This is not the first time a group of security professionals has challenged people to hack computer systems, nor will it be the last. What is unusual about this contest is the target - a production server running Microsoft Windows 2000 and chock-full with other software, including Microsoft's Outlook Web Access, Firewall-1 NG from Check Point Software Technologies, Apache 2.0 and WebTrends Log Analyzer from NetIQ.
The website, which also serves as the name of the competition, is www.infohacking.com. Hugo Vázquez Caramés and Toni Cortés Martínez , who both work as security experts with Madrid firm Winmat Servicios Sistemes, are staging the competition.
Caramés and Martínez hope to drive home a message to chief technology officers 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% of hackers," Caramés said. "At the same time, we want to learn how that 0.1% is able to break into a hardened system."
The competition began on 1 October with no previous promotion, and so far no one has managed to break in. But Caramés said interest is growing, judging by the number of visitors to the site.
It is not the prize - a used Alpha Station 400 from the former Digital Equipment - 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.
John Blau writes for IDG News Service