Robocalls, honeypots and DEF CON 22
If it were a 50s scifi movie, we’d call it “Invasion of the Serenity Snatchers” – illegal and annoying robocalls that disturb consumers’ peace and quiet. The battle continues, of course, but we’re happy to announce the winners of the FTC’s “Zapping Rachel” contest held just a few weeks ago at DEF CON 22.
The contest challenged participants to design a robocall honeypot, a system for attracting robocallers. It’s a critical tool for helping law enforcers, researchers, and others enhance our understanding of robocallers’ tricky tactics.
A total of 60 teams and individuals registered for one or more of the contest’s three phases and we got 13 submissions. A panel of expert judges selected the winning entries for each of the three phases and named two honorable mentions for the final phase.
But we think there are three more winners worthy of acknowledgement.
- Consumers. Let’s be clear: The enemy is particularly wily and this fight is far from won. But each incremental advance – whether it’s law enforcement, education, or technology – puts us one step closer to bidding buh-bye to Rachel. That’s good news for consumers eager to hang up on illegal robocalls once and for all.
- Businesses. Companies tell us all the time they want a level playing field. A business that makes the effort to comply with the law shouldn’t have to compete against corner cutters. Since the amendment to the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the legal standards applying to robocalls are clear. And it’s only right that they apply across the board.
- Taxpayers. At the FTC, we like to think that “Innovation” is our middle name. (Actually, “Trade” is our middle name, but you get the point.) What happened at DEF CON is a tribute to the creative thinking of the members of the tech community who participated. Government-private sector collaboration is one cost-effective strategy to help address pernicious problems.
Congratulations to all the winners – and a big thanks to everyone who participated at DEF CON.