“Zapping Rachel” and the feds are coming to Defcon 22.

Looking for technical solutions to help eradicate annoying robocallers, the FTC has launched a contest called “Zapping Rachel” that will give a big cash prize for the engineer or team that comes up with the best proposal to combat the odious robocall onslaught that shows no sign of slacking. Indeed, last years winners split the $50,000 prize.

Indeed, with a catchy name and a decent cash prize, the FTC, who receives over 100,000 complaints yearly on the annoyance, is looking to get a leg up.

The FTC, in a release, put it this way:

“The Federal Trade Commission is looking to expand the technological arsenal that can be used in the battle against illegal phone spammers by challenging DEF CON 22 attendees to build the ultimate “honeypot” to lure in and identify perpetrators of illegal robocalls. A robocall honeypot is an information system designed to attract robocallers, which can help experts and law enforcement authorities understand and combat illegal calls.”


With “Zapping Rachel,” the FTC will offer three stand-alone contests at Defcon 2014, August 7-10. The hugely popular hacking conference takes place at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. This year marks the third year in which the FTC has reached out to hackers for help.

The winners last year were Serdar Danis and Aaron Foss, who split the $50,000. They focused their efforts on intercepting and then filtering robocalls using two greatly different strategies.

The FTC wants designers to build what they’re calling a “honey pot” that will lure in robocallers. Engineers and law enforcement are then able to study the perpetrators technology and design countermeasures accordingly.

Danis’ winning proposal last year was called  “Robocall Filtering System and Device Autonomous Blacklisting, Whitelisting, GrayListing, and Caller ID Spoof Detection.” Danis’ solution called for an app to be stationed in a user’s house, while Foss’ proposal, called “Nomorobo,” was a cloud-based solution that forced marketing calls to route to a second number.

Rules and information for the contest can be found here.