On Saturday Dec 3, at BSides Cape Town we announced the winner of a prize for local information security research. The purpose of the competition was twofold. Firstly, to highlight interesting research produced in .za for the purpose of publicising up ‘n coming security folks, since there are a few disparate communities (academic / industry is the greatest split). Secondly, to provide some degree of reward in the form of a cash prize. The prize is (unsurprisingly) not meant to compensate for time spent, but rather to give the typical researcher who conducts the work in their spare time some recognition and perhaps a cool gadget to associate with the work.
The competition was a little disappointing for a single, but significant, reason: the lack of nominations. In all, six people nominated three pieces of work from two researchers. Considering there were four security conferences this year in South Africa, it’s not possible that even a reasonable minority of the research produced was considered for the prize. This was a no-strings-attached cash prize; there is no handover of IP or copyright, and no requirements on the winner (though we do offer an interview on our blog to publicise their work, should they choose to). With this in mind, it’s strange how few nominations were received; for example, while the competition received some coverage on Twitter, very few nominations originated from there. The timing was tight (competition announced two weeks prior to BSides), but that only accounts for a smaller circumference, not a lack of involvement.
The two nominees were:
- Jameel Haffejee of Thinkst, who received two nominations for his work on the Google Chrome GPG plugin, and the security conference data collector.
- Etienne Stalmans of Rhodes University, for his work on detecting fastflux botnets through DNS traffic.
Given the small number of nominations, the panel was composed of three SensePost’ers, Dominic, Ian and myself.
The! winner! of! the! R5000! prize! was! Etienne! Stalmans!
In addition, a finder’s fee of R500 was offered to the person who nominated the winning entry. Etienne received two nominations, and so a coin was flipped to determine who got the fee; Samuel Hunter was the winner.
Thanks to the Pieter for organising BSides Cape Town and providing us a spot to announce the winners, and thanks to everyone who sent in a nomination. Compliments to both nominees for having their work recognised by others in the community, and congratulations to Etienne for winning the prize.
We remain committed to research and the sponsorship concept, so expect an announcement towards the end of next year and keep an eye open during the year for research that strikes you as interesting.