A Contest to Combat Robocalls

Zapping Rachel

On August 7-10, 2014, the FTC challenged the tech-savvy public to help us zap Rachel and her robocall buddies by creating the next-generation robocall honeypot at DEF CON 22. A robocall honeypot is an information system designed to attract robocallers and help investigators and academics understand and combat illegal calls. This was the FTC’s second robocall challenge, and our first DEF CON competition.

The contest consisted of three separate phases. Phase 1 (Creator) challenged participants to build a robocall honeypot. Phase 2 (Attacker) challenged participants to find honeypot vulnerabilities. Phase 3 (Detective) challenged participants to analyze honeypot data.


DEF CON attendees showed great interest in our contest and in learning more about the robocall problem. Sixty teams and individuals registered across all three phases.  We received 21 registrations for phase 1, 25 for phase 2, and 50 for phase 3. Twelve teams and individuals entered a total of 13 submissions.

An expert panel of judges reviewed and scored the submissions based on functionality, accuracy, innovation, and creativity, and selected the winners for all three phases, along with two honorable mentions for the final phase. 

The winners are:

  • The Creator Phase:  Jon Olawski
  • The Attacker Phase: Jan Volzke
  • The Detective Phase: Yang Yang and Jens Fischer
  • The Detective Phase Honorable Mentions: Sean Beck and DarkTyphoon

Each winner (or winning team) will receive $3,133.70, and each honorable mention will receive $1,337. 

Congratulations to all of the winners and the honorable mentions.

T-Shirt Design

We are delighted with the results of the Zapping Rachel contest. To thank the DEF CON community for their interest, we are releasing the Zapping Rachel t-shirt design worn by FTC staff at DEF CON 22. Download it for free. Here are the front of the shirt and the back of the shirt in Illustrator (vector) format.

t-shirt preview


The FTC will post additional information about the submissions online in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned for additional updates and ideas for how to get involved in the battle against Rachel the Robocaller!

If you have any questions or comments, please email robocallcontest@ftc.gov.