'Hacking Challenge' Winners Allege $43,000 Contest Rip-Off

Tuesday, 26 November 2002, 2:34 PM EST

Eighteen months after Argus Systems challenged the hacker world to crack its PitBull security product in a much-ballyhooed global contest, the winners say they're still waiting for their prize money.

It must have seemed a masterstroke of marketing genius at the time. A formerly-obscure security software company organizes a series of high-profile contests aimed at showing that even with a sizable cash prize dangling as a reward, the world's best hackers can't crack a Web server protected by the company's flagship product.

The only problem: the world's best hackers did just that. And now more than eighteen months after the Polish white hat hacker group Last Stage of Delirium (LSD) conquered the Argus Systems Group's fifth, and apparently last, "Hacking Challenge," the winners say the company still hasn't paid most of the $48,000 prize, raising the ugly specter of fraud in a contest that some security experts already criticized as a corporate publicity stunt.

"We spent the last half year looking for a lawyer of some sort, a law agency," said LSD member Tomasz Ostwald in a telephone interview. "Unfortunately because we're located here in Poland, which is very far away from the States, it isn't so easy."

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