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1/25/2012
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Pwn2Own Hacking Contest Gets Facelift

Popular competition will up the ante with longer contest, fewer targets, more payout for first-, second-, third-place winners--plus an extra Google bounty for cracking Chrome.

The high-profile, high-stakes Pwn2Own annual hacking competition will look more like a long-distance race than a sprint this year: Sponsor HP/TippingPoint DVLabs has revamped the prestigious contest by raising the bar and upping the potential purse.

There are just four targets in this year's contest, and they are all browsers: Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari. Unlike years past, it won't be a race to zero-day, but instead a points-based system with a few specific challenges along the way, and first-, second-, and third-place prizes totaling $105,000 for the three winning contestants or teams.

Google also is offering a side bounty of two prizes for full and partial hacks of Chrome, according to Aaron Portnoy, director of ZDI. Full hack means using bugs in Chrome to conduct "un-sandboxed" code execution. "You would get $20,000 for [each] unique way of doing that," Portnoy says. Using a bug in Chrome as well as the underlying operating system brings in $10,000 per set of bugs, he said.

And that's basically icing: "If you pop Chrome in the contest, you get a point-value association with Chrome from us as well," he says.

Perhaps the biggest change to the March 7 to 9 contest at the ConSecWest conference will be its length and breadth: No longer will it be literally "game over" when a contestant finds a zero-day bug in the targeted software. Winners will be based on a point system, and there will be no more mobile-device hacking this year.

"We were trying to get away from the headlines, [such as] 'Mac Hacked In Three Seconds,'" says Aaron Portnoy, director of ZDI. "Unlike in prior years, if someone finds a zero-day, the target is not removed from the contest anymore and you can go after anything you want ... and continually attack anything."

And ZDI will throw in another new element for the contestants to crack: patched vulnerabilities in which the researchers at ZDI have discovered holes. "On the first day of the contest, we will announce two patched vulnerabilities per target that my team has confirmed are exploitable. We will give out a virtual machine with the targeted browser, and the proof-of-concept that triggers it, but not the exploit," he said.

Read the rest of this article on Dark Reading.

The right forensic tools in the right hands are just a start. The new Digital Detectives issue of Dark Reading shows you how to better apply the lessons they teach. (Free registration required.)

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