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Facebook awards $200K to Internet Defense Prize winners

Facebook announced today the winners of its annual Internet Defense Prize and awarded first-, second- and third-place winners a total of $200,000 for research papers that addressed topics of internet security and privacy. Combined with $800,000 in Secure the Internet Grants awarded to security and privacy researchers earlier this week, the company has now completed its 2018 goal to invest $1 million toward securing the internet.

The Internet Defense Prize first started in 2014, but this year the prize quadrupled from its original $50,000 award to $200,000 spread across three groups. In a statement announcing the winners, Facebook said that the increase of this year’s prize money reflected not just the company’s ongoing (and in light of the its privacy catastrophes this year, seemingly increased) interest in security and privacy, but also the quality of work submitted.

“Over the years we’ve gotten higher and higher quality of submissions,” Pete Voss, Facebook’s Security Communications Manager told TechCrunch. “[But] the criteria has always been the same, and that’s making practical research. Making this go beyond theory and making it so you can actually apply security in real life.”

The first prize, $100,000, was taken home by a team from Belgium for a paper entitled “Who Left Open the Cookie Jar? A Comprehensive Evaluation of Third-Party Cookie Policies” that proposed improvements to browser security that would make users less susceptible to having their internet trail tracked from site to site.

Second- and third-place prizes (for $60,000 and $40,000 each) were awarded to research teams in the U.S. and China, respectively, for papers focusing on proper use of cryptography for app development and for strengthening the algorithm behind single sign-on security systems.

Voss says the entries this year are a great example of the award’s mission to fund research that benefits not just Facebook’s interests in security and privacy, but the internet’s as a whole.

“We’re investing in not just Facebook security but in public security for the entire internet,” said Voss. “We want to keep the internet strong and the only way we can do that is by making it secure.”

As for the recipients of the Secure the Internet Grants, the $800,000 was divided between 10 teams whose research ranged from sociological approaches (like “Understanding the Use of Hijacked Facebook Accounts in the Wild” and “Enhancing Online & Offline Safety During Internet Disruptions in Times of War”) to more technical ones like improving the strength of encryption methods.

Voss told TechCrunch that Facebook has no plans to announce at this time regarding its next steps toward providing funding for researchers in this space (unlike last summer when the company laid out its $1 million goal), but says that the company is “always looking at incentivizing this kind of research” and providing support.



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