Federal regulators hope hackers can help put a stop to what millions of Americans and the government so far have been unable to: automated telemarketing calls such as the well known "Rachel from Cardholder Services."

To help fight the problem, the Federal Trade Commission has announced the rules for its second robocall challenge, Zapping Rachel.

The contest - named after the robocall campaign known as "Rachel From Cardholder Services" - will be held at DEF CON 22 in Las Vegas, Aug. 7-10. It offers participants $17,000 in cash for open-source solutions to help build the next-generation robocall honeypot, circumvent or trick a honeypot, and analyze data from an existing honeypot.

A robocall honeypot is an information system designed to attract robocalls and gather information about them, which can help researchers and investigators combat the illegal, prerecorded messages.

Zapping Rachel will consist of three stand-alone phases. For the first "Creator" phase, contestants will build honeypots that can recognize inaccurate information in the calls they receive, such as spoofed caller IDs, and identify calls that are likely robocalls.

In the second "Attacker" phase, contestants will think like robocallers and attempt to circumvent or trick a honeypot created for the contest.

The third "Detective" phase asks contestants to analyze data and develop an algorithm to predict which calls from an existing honeypot are likely robocalls. Judges will score submissions based on functionality and accuracy, as well as innovation and creativity.

To participate, contestants must be present at DEF CON, register in person and meet the eligibility criteria. Contestants can register as an individual or a team, and can compete in one, two, or all three phases of the contest. 

Judges and Prizes

The judges include: Dr. Mustaque Ahamad, Dr. Matthew Blaze and Jonathan Curtis. Dr. Ahamad is a professor of computer science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a global professor of engineering at New York University Abu Dhabi. Dr. Blaze is a professor of computer science at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science. Curtis is the director of Solutions and Intelligence within the Compliance and Enforcement Sector at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The FTC will announce the top scores at the end of the conference. The top prize for each phase is $3,133.70, and the judges also may award $1,337 for each honorable mention (with up to two honorable mentions per phase).

The agency hosted its first robocall challenge in 2012, which garnered nearly 800 submissions, and stimulated the market to produce new robocall blocking technologies for consumers.

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