The developers of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol have announced the Bitcoin Piñata, a hacker competition with a bounty of 10 bitcoin, in order to test the safety of their system.

A piñata is a traditional Mexican container filled with candy and fruit, usually hung at parties and celebrations. The point of the piñata game is to hit one with a stick and break it open.

A bitcoin prize of 37.6 BTC had previously been offered by Roger Ver for identifying hackers who attacked Satoshi Nakamoto’s email account and allegedly blackmailed Ver himself.

The TLS protocol is a security protocol widely used on the Internet and, in particular, to secure traffic between the website and the browser as well HTTPS services (including emails and wireless networks). 

Last summer, two developers released a TLS implementation in OCaml, an open source programming language, which they claim is more flexible and accessible than the existing TLS implementations. 

Last week, the developers set up the Bitcoin Piñata, a MirageOS unikernel with a private key to a bitcoin address inside, and they are inviting people to try and break in. The wallet currently contains 10.0641094 BTC. 

The unikernel will be opened only if someone sets up a TLS connection with an appropriately signed certificate. The contest will continue till mid-March or until someone takes the coins. The organizers are not imposing any rules but encourage people to focus on the technical details of their exploits and avoid cheating, e.g. trying phishing on the authors. The project is sponsored by the private network provider Ipredator that offers an encrypted tunnel from a PC to the Internet which can hide a user’s IP address.

The developers are aware that even if the bounty is not claimed until mid-March, it does not mean that the system is unbreakable and proven to be completely secure. On the contrary, they are relying on the transparency of the bitcoin blockchain: 

“Our prize is publically observable in the blockchain. If you observe a transaction, it is taken. So if this contest attracts attention and we are still standing at the end of it, we will gain that extra inch of confidence in our work.”