This article claims that AV vendors are upset about an anti-AV competition during DefCon. They claim that it provides too much help to hackers.
Yet, such contests also help customers. The 'protectors" (product vendors) have big marketing budgets to tell us their side of the story about how good they are protecting us from 'hackers'. The 'hackers' have neither the budget nor the inclination to tell us how good they are at breaking past the 'protectors'. What we are hearing is the sound of one hand clapping. We only get one side of the story.
This contest will tell us the other side of the story. That's what conferences like DefCon, BlackHat Briefings, and CanSecWest are for - they are the counterweight to product conferences like RSA. Educating the consumer unfortunately means hackers often get educated to.
The educating needed here is that the mainstream anti-virus technologies are easily evaded, and that such evasion happens a lot, especially against high-value targets like financial institutions and government organizations. I see it when I talk to customers, but there is no reliable statistics on the matter. Anti-virus vendors publish tests "proving" a 99% detection rate, when no such detection rate happens in the real world.
There are niche technologies that can improve this situation. However, customers aren't demanding them, so mainstream vendors don't invest in them, and the niche products don't get traction. The more the inherent deficiencies with anti-virus come to light, the more these technologies will find their way to the market.
This open-letter signed but some respected people in the field asserts the principle: "It is not necessary and it is not useful to write computer viruses to learn how to protect against them". This is absolutely true. However, that doesn't apply to customers. Often, the best way to test an anti-virus product is to create your own virus. When I was building such products, I felt no need to create viruses in order to develop defenses. Now that I'm hired to evaluate products, I have already built my own viruses to evaluate how anti-virus products work, and whether they live up to their claims.
I would hope that the contest organizers take this into account. While judging how well hackers defeat anti-virus products, I would hope that they likewise give an award to the anti-virus that is best at defeating the hackers.