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HP offers $150,000 for 'exploit unicorn' in Pwn2Own hacker competition

Big bucks also up for grabs for browser and app cracking

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HP has been laying out the ground rules for the latest Pwn2Own contest and is offering a new prize of $150,000 to the cunning cracker who can get root access to a Windows 8.1 PC running Redmond's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).

"Last year we launched a plug-in track to the competition, in addition to our traditional browser targets. We’ll continue both tracks this year," said Brian Gorenc, manager of vulnerability research at HP Security, in a blog post.

"For 2014, we’re introducing a complex Grand Prize challenge with multiple components, including a bypass of Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) protections – truly an Exploit Unicorn worthy of myth and legend, plus $150,000 to the researcher who can tame it."

Pwn2Own is an annual event at the CanSecWest security conference in March, and HP and co-sponsors Google are putting over half a million dollars into the prize pot for those who can demonstrate their subversive skills. In return, the firms get a full dossier on the attack and ownership of the code used to do it.

Browser security is a major part of Pwn2Own and crackers can earn $100,000 for beating Internet Explorer 11 or the Chrome browser on an x64 Windows 8.1 system, $50,000 for defeating Mozilla's Firefox and/or $65,000 for tunneling into a Mac OS X system running Apple's Safari. All hacks must be completed in 30 minute window of opportunity.

The organizers are also offering $75,000 to anyone who can get into Adobe Reader or Adobe Flash running in Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1, again within the time limits. Cracking Java on a similar system will net $30,000 to a nimble-fingered security specialist.

Those that meet the challenge will also get the laptop containing the software they cracked and 20,000 reward points in HP's Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) program, which takes them automatically to Silver status. That means a $5,000 extra cash bonus, a paid trip to the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, and a 15 per cent monetary bonus on any vulnerabilities they submit to ZDI for the next year. ®

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