Katie Moussouris

Senior Security Strategist Lead, Head of Microsoft’s Security Community and Strategy Team

Cool vulns, BlueHat, soldering irons, quantum teleportation

Rudeness, socks-n-sandals, licorice

As we wrap up the first BlueHat Prize contest, we wanted to share what we learned while running the first competition, from a major vendor, offering a large cash prize for defensive security research. Not only did we get to motivate the development of technical mitigation technology, but we also achieved some valuable non-technical goals as well.

We’ll announce the winners in this post, so scroll down if you can’t wait.

Bonus #1: We identified security defense talent that we may never have encountered otherwise, and helped the world get to know them too.

Some of the contestants were certainly well-known names in the security research community; some were people we had never heard of before. Running the BlueHat Prize contest allowed us insight into a greater number of people who are doing some deep thinking in the areas of security mitigation technology. This not only helps Microsoft find and work with talented people, but the spotlight that we can help shine on all of these contestants will hopefully help them market their ideas and talent so that the entire security industry can benefit and improve.

Bonus #2: We aligned some of the top “offensive security” minds to work with us on defense – with excellent results.

I often say that some of the best defenders come from the “offense” side of the security equation. I believe that you truly have to understand how to break into systems in order to devise effective plans for how to defend those systems. One of the goals we set out to accomplish with this contest was to create both an incentive and an opportunity for fame and fortune in the area of security defensive research that never existed at this scale before. We are very happy that the security community responded positively to our challenge, and some great minds chose to participate.

With those positive bonus outcomes we will not wait any longer to announce the winners. For an in-depth technical analysis of the winning entries, with the contest judging criteria applied, please see Matt Miller’s blog post on the SRD blog.


Vasilis Pappas wins $200,000 for his idea, kBouncer – an efficient and fully transparent ROP mitigation technique.

Ivan Fratric wins $50,000 for his idea, ROPGuard – a system that can detect and prevent the currently used forms of return-oriented programming (ROP) attacks at runtime. 

Jared DeMott wins an MSDN subscription, valued at $10,000, and was also surprised on stage live with a check for $10,000 cash for his idea, /ROP – a system that lowers the effect of address space disclosures and mitigates known ROP exploits. 


So what is next for the BlueHat Prize?

Check the BlueHat Prize website in the next several weeks for an updated page that will include information on the other contest entries. These beautiful minds all deserve the thanks and attention of the security community, and we are excited to provide them with a venue to showcase their defensive security ideas.

One thing is certain – we will continue to invest in security defense at Microsoft, and we will continue to offer cash incentives to the security community for helping Microsoft, and the rest of the industry, to help improve the state of security for the entire ecosystem. In sports, as in life, a great team understands both offense and defense. To address the security threats of today and tomorrow, we as an industry need to appreciate both.

 - Katie Moussouris

Senior Security Strategist, MSRC