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NSA Shows Blockchain Due Diligence

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NSA Shows Blockchain Due Diligence

The NSA Codebreaker Challenge will take participants into the world of blockchain, with focus being on Ethereum. Details of this year’s contest should excite blockchain enthusiasts as it affirms the technology’s growing recognition and prominence.

Codebreaker Challenge 2018

The 2018 contest involves an Ethereum ransomware task that participants will have to reverse-engineer. In a post, the NSA has detailed a fictitious story meant to provide a realistic context of the challenge.

In the post, the NSA details a new kind of Ethereum ransomware that has penetrated several government networks.

For each infected machine, an encrypted copy of the key needed to decrypt the ransomed files has been stored in a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain* and is set to only be unlocked upon receipt of the ransom payment,” the NSA stated in a post.

The Task

The NSA requires participants to come up with a way of unlocking the ransomware without giving in to the attacker’s demands. The participants will also have to recover all the funds paid to victims as part of the challenge.

The agency has already created a private blockchain that participants will use for the 2018 Codebreaker Challenge. What this means is that the competition will not run on the Ethereum Mainnet. This way the NSA will be able to distribute valueless ETH to all participating candidates.

Participants are to use real blockchain tools in the challenge. MetaMask is the official digital wallet for handling ETH tokens for the challenge. The participants will also have to rely on Remix IDE to edit smart contracts.

NSA Blockchain Push

Codebreaker Challenge 2018 is open to students as well as faculties with .edu email address. Entries by academic participants are to be posted on a scoreboard. Independent participants can also partake the challenge although through contest files on the NSA resource page.

While this is not the first time that the NSA has ran a Codebreaker Challenge, it is the first time blockchain is at the epicenter. Some of the challenges in the past have involved straightforward processes such as password cracking. The agency has also run sophisticated challenges such as trying to find a hidden function in a program.

This year’s challenge addresses some of the emerging trends in the world. Ransomware attacks have become rampant, leading to significant loss of money. Blockchain technology, on the other hand, is sending ripples across the globe in every area of business and security.

Codebreaker Challenge 2018 underscores how far blockchain technology has come and the amount of interest it is evoking worldwide.


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