Vulnerabilities / Threats

3/10/2011
02:12 PM
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Safari, IE Defeated, Chrome, Firefox Survive

Apple and Microsoft get "pwned" again at CanSecWest's Pwn2Own hacking competition.

Google Chrome 9 Advances The 3D Graphical Web
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Slideshow: Google Chrome 9 Advances The 3D Graphical Web

Shortly before the Pwn2Own hacking contest began on Tuesday, Apple released iOS 4.3 and Safari 5.0.4, patching 59 security vulnerabilities in its mobile operating system and 62 vulnerabilities in the desktop version of its browser.

The fixes affected some of the exploits security researchers had prepared for their attempt to win the hacking prize -- $15,000 for compromising the latest desktop versions of Apple's Safari, Mozilla's Firefox, or Microsoft's Internet Explorer, or $20,000 for compromising Google's Chrome.

But Apple's timely release wasn't enough. After weeks of searching for flaws with fuzzing software, security researchers from VUPEN, a penetration testing company based in France, defeated Safari 5.0.4 decisively.

"We pwned Apple Safari on Mac OS X (x64) at Pwn2Own in 5 seconds," the company said in a post to Twitter. VUPEN won $15,000 and the 13" MacBook Air on which the exploit was demonstrated.

Earlier in the day, Microsoft passed on the opportunity to patch Internet Explorer when it published a mere three security bulletins during its regularly scheduled patch day. It ought to have tried harder: Internet Explorer 8 was also defeated.

Irish security researcher Stephen Fewer managed to hack Internet Explorer 8 on a Sony Vaio running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 (SP1). For his six weeks of bug hunting, he has won $15,000 and the Vaio.

Google Chrome emerged unscathed, prompting Google's Matt Cutts to proclaim in a Twitter post, "I *love* Pwn2Own! Safari and IE8 were cracked on the first day, but not Chrome."

Chrome's success no doubt has a lot to do with the hard work of Google's security engineers, and the repair of dozens of bugs in the days leading up to the contest. But it was a victory by default: The security researchers who signed up to crack Chrome either didn't show up or opted to focus exclusively on the mobile hacking contest to come. Still, Chrome is building up an impressive record: This is the third year no one participating in Pwn2Own has defeated Google's desktop browser.

Mozilla's Firefox also survived, a better showing than last year.

Next up, competitors will be trying to break into an a Dell Venue Pro running Windows 7, an iPhone 4 running iOS, a Blackberry Torch 9800 running Blackberry 6 OS, and Nexus S running Android.

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