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Hacking, Iron Chef Style

Open contest at Black Hat to pit static-code versus runtime analysis methods to find bugs in sample code

Analyzing code never looked so appetizing: Engineers from Fortify and challengers from the audience will face off next month at the Black Hat conference in an "Iron Chef"-style competition to see how many vulnerabilities they can find in a piece of mystery code.

A random panel of judges will get to decide just who came up with the best "dish" on the code -- and, as with the popular Food Network show, presentation counts.

Brian Chess, founder and chief scientist at Fortify, says the session on August 2 will pit Fortify's top source-code analysis engineer against its top runtime tool engineer to see how static analysis (source-code analysis) does against runtime, such as fuzzing-type techniques, in finding bugs. "We'll see who can find the most and best vulnerabilities on a ridiculously tight budget... I'll give them 40 minutes." They can use tools they have written, as well as Fortify's own products, to find the bugs, he says.

Audience members will get a chance to compete in the contest.

He wouldn't divulge details on the secret ingredient in the code, but he says it will likely be a Web-based application. "We're going to pick something the audience will care about that's relevant to the coding problems people run into and the typical application assessments we see," says Chess, whose company sells static-code analysis tools.

So why the Food Network parody? "In the past, we've felt like we've characterized this area by saying source-code analysis is good, and the other ways of finding vulnerabilities are bad. But any way you can find vulnerabilities when building software is good," he says. "And this [contest] is a little more like judging food than you think... It's not just how much stuff you can find. They are going to have at least different conclusions about the same piece of code.

"It's more [about] can you convince people that the coding process ought to change," he says.

The grand prize is still under consideration, but it could be a free dinner at one of Las Vegas' new wave of top-chef restaurants. Bon appetit.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Fortify Software Inc.
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