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Hacking for dollars

Ready, set ... break in! A San Jose company is offering $10,000 to anyone who can breach its security system. But will hackers divulge their identities or secrets for the money?

Firewall vendor Network Engineering Technologies has staked $10,000 to the first hacker who can breach its very own corporate firewall and find the serial numbers of the bills that make up the reward on its server.

A firewall is kind of security software that lets a company set up a private network, or intranet, using Internet-based networking protocols while restricting access to the Net itself. Network Engineering Technologies (NET) is one of the many small firewall vendors hoping to establish themselves in this market as interest in intranets takes off. To promote its technology, the company is inviting hackers to do their thing on the NET site.

To participate in NET's $10,000 Firewall Challenge, hackers at large must first register with the company, which says it is collecting names for statistical purposes only. "[It's] a chance for interested individuals to demonstrate their skill by meeting a challenge," said Chris Coley, vice president of engineering for NET, in a press release that managed to avoid using the H-word.

Once through the firewall, an intruder must find and report the serial numbers of the bills that will be theirs--that is, after revealing how he or she managed to get in. But it remains to be seen whether a winner will agree to those terms; it'll be a matter of hacker pride versus the lure of real money.

The challenge is open only from May 1 to May 31, and the company is confident that the reward money will still be around in June. But if a particularly nimble nerd hits the jackpot, the company is willing to do more than just pay up the prize money.

"If someone's that good, we'd be glad to make a six-figure offer," NET president Skeeter Wesinger said.

The company did not say if the names of any "interested individuals" would subsequently be turned over to law enforcement agencies.