SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Bob Gourley, Sandi Mappic, Eric Brown, RealWire News Distribution, Kevin Benedict

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Hackers Mobilize to Attack Routers via ISE Contest

An elite competition is scheduled for hackers and computer scientists from around the world to better protect consumers against widespread security vulnerabilities in wireless routers. A series of studies1 in 2013 discovered a security epidemic affecting small office/home office (SOHO) WiFi routers, wherein vulnerabilities allow an attacker to take control of the device and thereby intercept and modify network traffic. Abundant news coverage over the past 15 months has extensively reported the malicious exploitation of these devices, yet the epidemic persists today with little progress made by router manufacturers to address the issues. By bringing together the brightest minds in security, the hacking competition, dubbed “SOHOpelessly Broken” after the seminal research of the same title, seeks to identify new and existing security vulnerabilities in these widely deployed devices. “By demonstrating that the issues persist and that consumers are still exposed, pressure will be applied to the manufacturers to take the necessary action to better protect their customers who are currently not empowered to protect themselves,” says Steve Bono, founder of ISE and one of the leaders of the event.

The competition will run during the renowned DEFCON hacker conference, from 7-10 August 2014 at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV. The contest will host a range of activities, including multiple talk tracks, Capture the Flag, 0-day vulnerability discovery, and others. The contest is organized by a partnership between two leading entities in the security community: Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). ISE is the respected cyber security company most commonly known for being first to hack the iPhone and most recently for discovering the epidemic of security vulnerabilities in routers. The EFF is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. DEFCON is one of the largest and oldest annual hacker conferences.

“The outcome of this event will be two-fold,” says Ranga Krishnan of the EFF. “First, we will prove that routers are still vulnerable. Second, we will galvanize a community of technologists to demand remediation by manufacturers.” EFF is also driving a related initiative known as the Open Wireless Movement ( In order to support this initiative, the EFF is developing a router on which users can confidently turn on an open WiFi channel that provides private internet access to guest users, without compromising the users' own security, privacy or internet experience.

Individuals interested in participating as contestants or as judges are encouraged to contact contest organizers as soon as possible through the contest website, Available spots are limited. Sponsorship and advertising opportunities are also available. The official hashtag of the event is #sohopelesslybroken.

About ISE

ISE is most commonly recognized for being the first company to exploit the iPhone2, an achievement that garnered international attention. ISE’s most recent research discovered systemic issues in SOHO routers3 and web browsers4.

About EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. We work to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.


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