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Reverse Challenge Results

Results of the Reverse Challenge
Last Modified: 7 July, 2002, 23:45 CDT


Wow! We received a total of 35 submission for the Reverse Challenge. These submissions were outstanding, most contestants put an incredible amount of time and effort into the Challenge, we were extremelly impressed! This made juding very tough (and time consuming :). Unfortunately, not everyone that submitted had time to complete all of the documentation. Of the 35 entries, we identified 7 as incomplete and were not evaluated (we simply did not have the time). We then judged the remaining 28 entries, using the process defined in the Challenge. The entries that did the best used both passive and active measures to analyze the binary. Also, the highest ranked entries had the best documentation. Many of the entries were technically similar, but it was the writeups that identified the winners. That does not mean they had the longest documentation. Instead their documentation was concise, simple to read and understand, and yet had all the details involved.

Top 20 Submissions

We are posting the Top 20 submissions from the challenge. Each one of these submissions will receive a signed copy of our book Know Your Enemy. The Top 3 winners (Dion Mendel, CoPS Lab at the University of North Texas, and Chris Eagle) get to choose as an additional award a copy of IDA Pro Advance, IDA Pro Standard, or a free pass for Black Hat Briefings. Finally, the folks from DataRescue awarded a $200 gift certificate to the student with the best Advisory and Summary documents. They feel that Gijs Hollestelle, as a student, had the most concise yet detailed submission, as such they are awarding him the $200 Amazon gift certificate. Any of these individuals can trade amongst themselves the awards they received.

Place Submission Points
1st Place Dion Mendel 43.4
2nd Place (CoPS) Lab at the University of North Texas 42.2
3rd Place Chris Eagle 41.5
4th Place Solar Eclipse 37
5th Place Marcin Gozdalik 35.9
6th Place Mat 35.9
7th Place Felix von Leitner 35.4
8th Place Eric Landuyt 33.8
9th Place Gijs Hollestelle 33.1
10th Place CERIAS Computer Forensics Research Group 32.7
11th Place HP Spain 32.6
12th Place Sean Burford 32.5
13th Place sniph 32.3
14th Place Be-Secure, Telecom Italia Labs 32.1
15th Place Secure Software, Inc. 31.7
16th Place xmux 31.7
17th Place Chris Ren 31.2
18th Place Hong-Siang Teo 31.1
19th Place John Keener 30.5
20th Place Christophe Grenier 29.2

Time/Cost Analysis

Of the 28 submissions that were evaluated, the average time spent analyzing and documenting the binary was 70 hours (one entry had spent 280 hours). This is more then twice as much time spent on the Forensic Challenge last year, where people conducted a forensic analysis of a hacked system. Why does it take twice as long to analyze a single binary, as opposed to an entire system? We are not sure, to be honest we were a little surprised by the time results. However, we have some guesses.

  • Reverse Engineering is extremely scientific and detailed. There is little guessing involved. Properly done, you should be able to determine exactly how things work. This level of detail takes more time.
  • There are few OpenSource reverse engineering tools available. As a result, for many of the submissions, people developed their own tools.
  • Overall, the level and detail of documentation has improved, requiring more time and effort.
So, based on an average of 70 hours per analysis and documentation, what is the cost? Honeynet member David Dittrich has outlined a process to determine this, based on an annual salary of 70,000.

Hours Cost/Hr. Total +15% -15%
Investigation 70 $33.65 $2355.50 $2708.83 $2002.18
Benefits @ 28% $659.54 $758.47 $560.61
Total Labor Cost $3015.04 $3467.30 $2562.79
Median Cost +/- 15% $3015.04 +/- $353.34

So, a company's cost would be $3015.04 for the analysis and documentation of a single binary. However, the cost for a company would most likely be much greater. Reverse Engineering requires very advance skills, can your company afford to lose the time of one of your most advance engineers for almost two weeks? For most organizations, you will most likely have to contract for this type of expertise, where the costs will be much higher. The cost to contract out this analysis would most likely run as much as $350 a hour. At that rate, the average cost for analyzing this binary would have been $28,000.

The End?

The Reverse Challenge is now over, but this Challenge-project is going to live on in several ways.

  • The results will be here for quite some time for people to learn from. There are new tools that came out of this Challenge, some inovative techniques, and great examples of how to do a reverse analysis of a untrusted binary. If you have the time (a couple hours per submission), you will benefit from reading all of the analyses and seeing how each differs from the others. You will learn something, guaranteed.

  • The Honeynet Project members will be carrying on the learning with talks and courses based on the lessons learned in this Challenge. We will be assembling some "best practices" documents and guidelines to help move forward the state of the art in reverse engineering.

    (Note that there will be no prosecutions of anyone involved in this intrusion. This is not about catching the person who did this intrusion, but rather about what can be learned from it. Whoever did this is veeerrrrry lucky its working out this way. This time. ;)

If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments on the Reverse Challenge, feel free to contact us at [email protected]

Shouts and greetz

The Project would like to thank all six judges that volunteered their time and effort in the evaluation of the submissions. Without their time and effort, this Challenge would never have been possible. These six judges were:
  • Gera
  • Halvar
  • Niels
  • Job de Haas
  • K2
  • David Dittrich
We would also like to thank the folks who supplied the awards, including DataRescue, Black Hat, and our publisher Addison-Wesley. And finally, thanks to the security community. Without your contributions, this Challenge would have never been possible.

- The Honeynet Project

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