Feeds

Mac is the first to fall in Pwn2Own hack contest

Safari's bad-hair week

3 Big data security analytics techniques

CanSecWest A brand-new MacBook Air running a fully patched version of Leopard was the first to fall in a contest that pitted the security of machines running OS X, Vista and Linux. The exploit took less than two minutes to pull off.

Charlie Miller, who was the first security researcher to remotely exploit the iPhone, felled the Mac by tapping a security bug in Safari. The exploit involved getting an end user to click on a link, which opened up a port that he was then able to telnet into. Once connected, he was able to remotely run code of his choosing. The feat won him a $10,000 prize paid by Tipping Point, whose Zero Day Initiative pays bounties to researchers for responsibly disclosing vulnerabilities.

The hack came during the Pwn2Own contest, which is being held at the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver. The competition took place in a conference room overlooking the city's Burrard Inlet, a harbor where pontoon planes took off and disappeared into black rain clouds shrouding nearby Grouse Mountain. A small round of applause broke out immediately after contest officials confirmed Miller's exploit was legit.

At time of writing, the Windows and Linux machines were still standing.

Under contest rules, Miller was forbidden from providing specifics of his hack. He said he chose Apple over the other machines because "I thought of the three it was the easiest". He said he didn't test the exploit on any other platform. As a Mac user, he added, he felt an incentive to exploit the system because he believes it will help make the platform stronger. Miller, who works for Independent Security Evaluators, received help from co-workers Jake Honoroff and Mark Daniel.

Miller's win came on day two of the contest, which gradually eases the rules for what constitutes a qualifying exploit. Not a single attendee entered the contest on day one, when all vulnerabilities had to reside in the machine's operating system, drivers or network stack. Winners were eligible for a $20,000 prize.

On day two, the attack surface was expanded to include browsers, mail applications and other common applications, and the bounty was reduced to $10,000. Contestants on day three will be allowed to attack still more applications, such as Skype, QuickTime and browser plugins for a $5,000 prize.

The Safari exploit came a day after Secunia warned of two critical vulnerabilities in the Apple browser.

As we've said in the past, one benefit of the Pwn2Own contest is its ability to eliminate economic variables from the argument over whether a given platform is vulnerable to attack. Given the proper incentive, it's safe to say that any is ripe for the picking. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Leaked pics show EMBIGGENED iPhone 6 screen
Fat-fingered fanbois rejoice over Chinternet snaps
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
True optical zoom coming to HTC smartphone cameras
Time to ditch that heavy DSLR? Maybe in a year, year and a half
Rounded corners? Pah! Amazon's '3D phone has eye-tracking tech'
Now THAT'S what we call a proper new feature
Leaked photos may indicate slimmer next-generation iPad
Will iPad Air evolve into iPad Helium?
Feast your PUNY eyes on highest resolution phone display EVER
Too much pixel dust for your strained eyeballs to handle
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
US mobile firms cave on kill switch, agree to install anti-theft code
Slow and kludgy rollout will protect corporate profits
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.