FTC Awards $25,000 Top Cash Prize for Contest-Winning Mobile App That Blocks Illegal Robocalls

Commission Also Announces Winners of National Day of Civic Hacking Analytic Challenge

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The Federal Trade Commission announced that judges for its Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back contest selected a first place winner for the $25,000 cash prize for building a mobile app that blocks and forwards robocalls to a crowd-sourced honeypot.

Ethan Garr and Bryan Moyles created a solution called RoboKiller, which relies on universally available call forwarding that works on both landline and mobile phones, and uses audio-fingerprint technology to identify robocalls. Runner-up Hemant Sengar applied similar audio analytics in his solution and will receive a $10,500 prize.

“We hope the winners bring their dynamic solutions to the marketplace soon,” said Jessica Rich, Director, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Their products may block billions of unwanted robocalls, and help people report illegal robocallers to law enforcement.”

RoboKiller gives consumers greater control over how and when they receive calls by sending robocalls to a SpamBox that consumers can access at any time, utilizes consumer-controlled white and black list filtering, and provides personalized setting options.

The contestants retain the intellectual property rights of their solutions.

Judges also determined the winners of the FTC’s DetectaRobo analytic challenge, which was hosted in June 2015 in connection with the National Day of Civic Hacking. This contest did not include a monetary prize. Winners are as follows:

Champion RoboSleuth

  • Ved Deshpande and M. Henry Linder (Team HaV)

Master RoboSleuths (Runner-ups)

  • Sridhar Ramakrishnan and Shuping Liu (Team Milibo)
  • Charles Julian Knight, Taylor Kelley, Ian Moraes, Rohan Smith, Will Mavis, John Cowhig, Sean Browning, James Albert Snow, and Pablo River (Team RDAC)

DetectaRobo contestants analyzed call data from an existing robocall honeypot and developed algorithms that identified which calls in the data set were likely robocalls. The winning teams employed similar strategies in examining particular data categories such as temporal information and area codes, and applied machine learning techniques.

The judges for the contests were Dr. Mustaque Ahamad, Georgia Institute of Technology; Dr. Matthew Blaze, University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science; Jonathan Curtis, Norse; and David Gibson and Yair Matas, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Complete rules and judging criteria for each contest are available online.

The FTC would like to thank its contest partners, Pindrop Security and CRTC, for their support throughout the contests. Staff would also like to thank the DEF CON community for welcoming them back to host the Strike Back contest at their annual information security conference.

A honeypot is an information system that may be used by government, private and academic partners to lure and analyze robocalls. Robocalls are prerecorded messages that generally seek to promote the purchase of goods or services to a consumer, and most robocalls are banned by the FTC under the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Consumers can report robocalls to the FTC’s Do Not Call Complaint Assistant.

For tips and more information about the FTC’s enforcement and education on telemarketing scams, see www.ftc.gov/robocalls.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Cheryl Warner
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2480

Staff Contact:
Patty Hsue
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3132