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16 June 2008, 13:37

Fourth Underhanded C Contest announced

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The fourth annual Underhanded C Contest has been announced. This year the challenge is to block out a rectangular region of an image in a way that allows surreptitious partial or complete recovery of the original content of the blocked out area.

The contest, first held in 2005, calls for the writing of C code that is "as readable, clear, innocent and straightforward as possible, and yet it must fail to perform at its apparent function." In all cases, the C source has to be as short and look as innocent as possible. Generally, submissions should not exceed 200 lines of source.

The 2007 contest required participants to write a file encryption routine that took a password from the command line. The challenge was to use a standard cipher, but pervert its implementation to make the encryption weak and easily cracked. In 2006 competitors had to write a simple routine that ran quickly on a given – open source – OS but painfully slowly on a competitor's. Like the current contest, the first year's challenge was based on image manipulation. Competitors had to create a simple image processing function that also implanted a unique digital fingerprint into the processed image.

This year, as always, competitors have three months to submit their code: the closing date is 30 September 2008. The prize – originally a case of beer – is now a $100 gift certificate to


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