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Flame worm's makers fail to collect Epic 0wnage award

State cyberespionage tool-makers shun Pwnie Award glory

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Black Hat Hackers and other delegates to Black Hat celebrated the best and worst of information security with the latest edition of the Pwnie Awards, the security geek equivalent of the Oscars.

The award in the top "Epic 0wnage" category went to whoever's behind the Flame cyber-espionage spyware. It was their use of an MD5 collision attack to create counterfeit Microsoft certificates – and thereby push bogus updates via the Windows Update – that earned the respect of hackers. Recent reports by the Washington Post suggest that a team from the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Israeli Defence Force developed the attack.

The NSA's director Keith Alexander gave a key-note at Defcon – the other hacking convention held in Vegas in July - but disappointingly decided not to pick up the award.

"Any attack that requires a breakthrough in cryptography to pull off is pretty cool in our book," the citation for the award explains. "And being able to pwn any Windows machine through Windows Update is pretty mass 0wnage."

The Pwnie for "Best Client-Side Bug" was a joint award to Pinkie Pie and Sergey Glazunov for separately hacking their way out of the Chrome sandbox. Both had already raked in $60,000 as winners of Google's Pwnium hacker contest for their ingenious hacks.

The discovery that some MySQL server configurations will accept any login password after enough tries earned Sergei Golubchik the Pwnie for the "Best Server-Side Bug". And the most innovative research Pwnie was bestowed on Travis Goodspeed for a paper on Wi-Fi hacking, entitled Packets in Packets: Orson Welles In-Band Signalling Attacks for Modern Radios.

Most of the awards celebrate excellence in the field of information security but one award celebrates epic incompetence. The Golden Raspberry Pwnie for Most Epic FAIL went to F5 for putting using the same extractable SSH private key in the firmware of all its appliances.

A more complete list of winners for the Pwnies can be found on the award's official page here. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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