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Plug-in pwning challenge brings Pwn2Own prizes to $US560k

Adobe and Java under the spotlight

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The organizers of the Pwn2Own hacking competition held at the annual CanSecWest security conference have upped the prize pool to $US560,000 and will now be offering prizes for hacking web plug-ins from Adobe and Oracle.

The contest, which dropped mobile phone hacking last year, has added web plug-in hacking to the prize pool. Contestants get $70,000 apiece for cracking Adobe Reader and Flash, and $20,000 for getting past Java. Based on the latter's recent parlous performance in the security arena that price discount seems justified.

"We've added browser plug-ins as a reflection of their increasing popularity as an attack vector," said Brian Gorenc, manager of vulnerability research at Pwn2Own sponsors HP DVLabs. "We want to demonstrate new hacking areas and design new mitigation techniques."

For the more traditional hacks against browsers, a working Chrome exploit for Windows 7 will net $100,000, with the same again for an IE10 hack in Windows 8 or $75,000 for breaking IE9 in Windows 7. A Safari exploit in OSX Mountain Lion is worth $65,000 and Firefox on Windows 7 just $60,000, and all hacks must be completed in a 30 minute time frame.

"As always, we look forward to working with anyone who can help us make our products better to help protect our users," an Adobe spokeswoman told El Reg.

As ever with the Pwn2Own competition, the winning hackers also get the laptop used in the successful hack. HP, meanwhile, is asking for the full details of the exploits used and the technique followed in a successful hit, which it will share with the cracked software's developer. This latest rule change has some security researchers worried.

"If the full exploit & technique are shared with the vendor, we will probably *not* enter, or we have to use some tricks ;-)," said last year's winner Chaouki Bekrar, CEO of security research firm VUPEN, on Twitter. ®

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