FTC, Hackers Work Together to 'Zap' Robocalls

Nobody likes robocalls and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided that some cold, hard cash might motivate people to put an end to them. On Thursday, it announced the winners of its "Zapping Rachel" contest, named after the scam where an automated voice says, “Hi, this is Rachel at cardholder services." The entrants were divided into three categories: creator, attacker and detective. The first category was won by Jon Olawski, who created a "honeypot" meant to attract robocalls and use an "audio captcha filter" to figure out if the caller was human or not. The attackers tried to get around these honeypots, and the detectives attempted to use that data to create an algorithm to identify calls that might be robocalls. (Those categories were won by Jan Volzke and a team made of Yang Yang and Jens Fischer, respectively). The grand prize: $3,133.70, enough for a shiny new laptop or several outdated "Rachel" haircuts. The FTC held the contest in an effort to cut down on the 150,000 robocall complaints it gets every month.



— Keith Wagstaff