Avecho has thrown down the gauntlet by offering £10,000 to anyone who can sneak a virus past its GlassWall product, and has even opened the challenge to its developers.
"Lots of people have already tried to do this," said Mark Elliott, vice-president of international marketing for Avecho. "I think this is something we are able to do. The only condition is that people must be willing for us to publicise their failure as well as their success."
In order to take part, contestants need to sign up for an Avecho email account and then send a virus to that address, or try and receive one from it. If the virus gets through, the contestant will win £10,000, said Elliott.
But the challenge awaits a third-party adjudicator. Elliott said he would like to see a media firm judging the contest, but no one had come forward to judge the competition. Currently the firm is the only party able to see the virus traffic travelling through its network.
"We are struggling to find a third-party arbiter," said Elliott. "We would like to get a media company, but as yet we don't have one."
Avecho's GlassWall product has been shrouded in mystery for some time – the firm still refuses to declare how the product works; only saying that it was 'a software-based, siliconizable malware protection solution'. In past interviews, Avecho's executives have said that it is keeping the mechanics secret because it was unable to patent its products.
Elliott was also evasive about the firm's background. He declined to talk to ZDNet UK about the firm's financial backers, but said that there were 'some changes in progress at the top level.'
In the past, many firms have crashed and burned with hacker challenges - in 2001, Argus Systems failed to pay a Polish ethical hacking group called 'The Last Stage of Delerium' prize money worth £35,000 for cracking its Pit Bull server. Korean Digital Works also suffered embarrassment in 2002, when suspicion arose over the running of its hacking competition. The firm had offered $100,000 to anyone who could break its Web server, but instead hackers decided to break the registration server to control who entered the contest.
Anyone wishing to enter Avecho's contest should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contestants are welcome to email ZDNet UK with feedback on the competition at email@example.com or TalkBack below.