Uncle Sam Wants You — to Fight Hackers (You Could Win $25K)

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Internet of things
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Remember when the internet temporarily died back in October?

Twitter feeds. Spotify playlists. Netflix favorites. Reddit threads. Amazon shopping carts. The Wall Street Journal’s breaking news.

All blocked — inaccessible for several hours in some cases.

The hack affected tens of millions of IP addresses, according to WIRED, which explains the incident in more detail.

This hack — among others — is why the U.S. government is asking you for help and offering a $25,000 prize.

This FTC Contest Will Award Developers Up to $25K

What happened in October was considered an attack on the “Internet of Things.” I’m not making that term up. Basically, those three simple words define the billions of everyday devices that send and receive data via the internet.

Think: Smart TVs, health and fitness monitors, home security devices, baby monitors, household appliances, connected cars…

These are all dandy, useful devices. But they’re also not exactly secure. Not yet, at least.

Enter: The Federal Trade Commission’s IoT Home Inspector Challenge.

The FTC needs help finding a solution to address these major security vulnerabilities in our everyday devices.

“Consumers want these devices to be secure, so we’re asking for creativity from the public — the tinkerers, thinkers and entrepreneurs — to help them keep device software up-to-date,” said Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

It’s asking contestants for a tool — like a physical device to connect to devices or perhaps an app or cloud-based service. Maybe even some type of dashboard. The agency is open to anything.

What You Need to Know About The IoT Home Inspector Challenge

The submission window is from March 1 to May 22, 2017.

There will be two rounds. In the first one, up to 20 contestants will be selected. Judges will assess those based on videos and abstracts — no detailed explanations.

Those who qualify will move to the next and final round where they’ll be given a chance to snag the top price of $25,000. Or $3,000 for honorable mention.

Find all the rules on the FTC’s website.

Your Turn: Got any solutions to the Internet of Things hacks?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with

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