Facial recognition
Russian tech firm won a competition held by US intelligence on facial recognition iStock

Russian software developers NTechlabs have won two categories of a facial recognition challenge set by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The competition was held in collaboration with the National Institute for Standards and Technology, which will reportedly release a detailed report on the event soon.

NTechlabs won under two categories — "Identification Speed" and "Verification Accuracy" — the software's ability to match one picture with another and verify if they are of the same person — reports Defense One (DO). Chinese tech firm Yitu took home the prize for "Identification Accuracy" — the ability of the program to match a face to an identity.

IARPA's competition reportedly involved using software to match faces in the wild including passively picking up cues from security cam footage.

The win by these firms does not mean that there is any formal collaboration with the Federal government, says the report. However, CEO of NTechlabs Mikhail Ivanov has said that this could help the company penetrate the target market and help them score contracts with public safety groups and security firms all over the world.

NTechlabs infamously created a software called "FindFace" to help people match random photographs of strangers with their VKontakte profiles — Russia's version of Facebook.

A software like this could be useful for those interested in keeping certain people outside their borders, notes the DO report. This tech could also be used for faster passport verification, or to authenticate users.

Moscow reportedly has the NTechlabs' software passively scanning its streets, looking for criminals and studying faces. The program powers over 150,000 CCTV cameras and picks up faces and compares them to government databases, reports DO.

A majority of the 16 participants of this challenge were from outside the US, says the report. This could be because Silicon Valley giants like Facebook, Google and Microsoft among others were reluctant to participate, said programme manager Chris Boehnen.

The company has been awarded a $25,000 (£19,000) cash prize for its efforts, but a Russian company winning the competition also raises questions on how vulnerable technologies like Apple's FaceID is. Several recent headline-grabbing cyberattacks, from the DNC hack and US election meddling to the Yahoo breach, BadRabbit and Fancy Bear attacks and Trump empire website hacks have been traced to Russia.

Is the next "Red Scare" going to be a technological one? Is Russia already one up on the West in cybersecurity?