Microsoft has given out more than $250,000 in prize money to Black Hat hackers who found ways to protect its software. Redmond's first Blue Hat prize were unveiled at a hip club at a mobbed party complete with dancers, high-energy DJ, and explosions of shimmering confetti.
The top prize of $200,000 went to doctoral student Vasilis Pappas. Pappas came up with a method to countering "the most popular attack technique” that Redmond is seeing at the moment. This is called Return-Oriented Programming which is a hacker technique that is often used to disable or circumvent a program's computer security controls. Pappas came up with something called kBouncer which blocks anything that looks like an ROP attack from running.
Microsoft security response center senior director Mike Reavey said that Redmond posed a challenge to the researcher community and asked them to shift their focus from solely identifying and reporting individual vulnerabilities to investing in new lines of defensive research that could mitigate entire classes of attacks.
Microsoft awarded $50,000 to the second-place finisher, and a fortune in software to the researcher who placed third out of the 20 submissions entered in the Blue Hat competition. Technology from the finalists has been integrated into a software toolkit for protecting against threats.