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A possible technique to increase site participation would be to hold periodic competitions of reverse engineering challenges. The challenges would be custom made for these contests and could include the topics of Crackmes, Application Fuzzing or Proprietary Protocol Analysis, etc.

There are a lot of details to discuss such as hosting the question, accepting answers, how often, etc, but for now I would like to gauge interest solely in the idea of the challenge itself.

Should we host periodic competitions that involve reverse engineering?

PS: If you're interested in helping run the competition (coming up with challenge ideas, writing challenges, or helping with other logistics) please leave a comment below.

  • I'd also add that to be different from other sites with challenges, we could try something , like the challenge to "create the challenge" - make this like a project for the whole forum audience. I hope I've explained myself :) – PhoeniX May 26 '13 at 20:22
  • Not a bad idea. I'm on a gig right now, but I could maybe whip up a challenge in support of this. – Rolf Rolles May 30 '13 at 18:55
  • I would also like to help :) – NirIzr Jun 7 '13 at 19:45
  • YES!! Interesting..I can help. – nomilk Jun 10 '13 at 21:09
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This sounds like a pretty good idea. Not only would it help promote the site and increase site participation, but it could also give an opportunity to learn new principles and techniques for reverse engineering (what works, what doesn't work, which tools/methods are more efficient, etc.), as well as increase their skills in reverse engineering (in general or in specific areas).

In all honesty, I think it might be better to push it a little bit beyond a simple competition. Having winners talk about how they did it would be nice. Given that a competition would mean having a real-world example placed in front of you, users would have a better vision of how a certain answer/technique applies to a certain situation, because they'd possibly have a chance to see it demonstrated rather than just written out in text.

I know my explanation isn't the best it could be right now. It's really hard to put it into words when it's still just a vague idea in my head. I'm all for the competition thing, though.

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Maybe the solution to the challenge could lead to a bitcoin private key? Maybe even multiple keys for different stages? It would be pretty easy to set up and probably add a little spice. The reward doesn't even have to be that big. I'm sure I can be in and sponsor something like this as long as the challenges are complex enough. I'm also definitely game for helping to run something like this.

What I'm a little sketchy about though is how this would tie into a QA site where the questions aren't supposed to be too narrow. It would help as an awareness builder. Could someone elaborate on how you see this tying into the site?

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The Security Stack Exchange has a loose-knit team who participates in capture-the-flag competitions. These involve a solid dose of engineering. You're welcome to join. There's an official requirement that you should have 400 reputation on Security.SE, but 400 rep on RE.SE should be just as good.

For more information, see A Security Stackexchange CTF team. Watch the ctf tag on Security Meta for announcements. Announcements happen whenever someone decides to participate in a CTF.

We coordinate in the Security.SE CTF Team chat room. The room is private during competitions.

  • I dont mean to sound rude, but this is an advertisement for Sec.SE rather than a suggestion for RE.SE :/ Also, the answer does not address a RE.SE contest, in its current form. – asheeshr Jun 16 '13 at 1:57
  • @AsheeshR I'm not advertising Sec.SE, I'm advertising the CTF team, which got started before RE.SE existed and has since then acquired several participants through RE.SE. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jun 16 '13 at 2:03
  • That still does not make it relevant to this discussion. – asheeshr Jun 16 '13 at 2:08
  • @AsheeshR Um, yes, it does? Lobby to rename the team to “Sec.SE and RE.SE CTF team” if it irks you, but it's quite a mouthful. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jun 16 '13 at 2:23
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I gave it some thought and I eventually wrote this up for the logistics.


Contest Guidelines/Rules

Contest Question

The question would be posted as a normal question on the site by either the question-writer or a moderator. The question would have a special tag (This will be a moderator only tag to prevent any accidental usage).

The comments will serve only for clarifications regarding the questions and will be regulated to ensure only relevant content stays as well as no part of the solution is disclosed.

Contest Submissions

Each submission/solution will be posted as an answer to the question. Submissions will have to submit the deciphered code (in which case the result cannot directly be a prize) and/or summary of steps followed to reach the answer (depending on type of challenge and difficulty).

Duration

The contest will stay live for a minimum period of one week and a maximum of one month. Answers can be submitted at any time during the duration of the contest. Only one submission is allowed per contestant and it will be eligible for the prize subject to owning the answer*. The contest will close once a winner** is found and at least one week has been covered since time of posting the question. Contest will be closed once the winner's answer is marked as the correct answer.

*Posts become CW after 10 edits by the original author. Therefore, a contestant will have a maximum of 10 attempts at the contest question. At whichever point the answer becomes CW, the contestant will no longer be a part of the contest. The CW answer will be deleted for the duration of the contest. **Being the winner is contingent to submission of correct code/answer and verification of the process, if required

Prizes

These will vary from contest to contest and will be declared on the corresponding meta post of the contest. The prize will be given to the winner (described in the section above). There may be multiple winners depending on circumstances and at the organizing team's discretion.

Eligibility

The minimum criteria to be a contestant will be :

  • User must have at least one post with a positive score on RE.SE
  • User should be registered
  • First criteria will be waived, if user has a minimum 10 rep on RE.SE (through suggested edits for questions, answers or wikis)

These criteria must be satisfied before posting a submission for the contest. They may be achieved during the contest period itself.

Step-Ups

A part of the solution or a hint will be provided every 4 days, after the completion of the first week. These will be added to the question in the form of clear demarcated edits.

Usage of Chat

The chatroom may be used for discussing the contest question. No clarifications about the question will be entertained in the chatroom. Any clarifications regarding rules can be made through the corresponding meta post for the contest or in the chatroom.

Organization

The organizing team will be a group of 2 or 3 active RE.SE users consisting of:

  • Question writer
  • Moderator
  • Active User or Moderator, if required

The organizers will not be eligible for the prize however, they may participate.

The writer will be responsible for giving clarifications about the contest question.

The moderator will be responsible for monitoring comments, chat, and answers. Community members are requested to also help in monitoring these areas keeping in mind the spirit of the contest and RE.SE.


Lastly, remember to :

  • Be Nice
  • Be Courteous
  • Be Tolerant

All rules are subject to change without notice. In case of any disputes, the organizers' decision will be final and binding. In case of any inappropriate actions on the part of a contestant, moderators will have the final say in the matter.



This is a rough sketch of the contest concept. All suggestions, corrections, improvements welcome.

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