Pwn2Own is a competition in which computer security experts attempt to compromise operating systems and Web browsers using bugs that they've identified.
This year, Google says it will pay out as much as $1 million in reward money. Hackers however will have to reveal quite a few exploitable bugs to win that much: Google will pay at most $60,000 for any single "full Chrome exploit."
But even Google's consolation prize--$20,000 for the identification of flaws in non-Chrome software like Flash or Windows--is as much as the total reward purse put forth by the company last year.
[ What happened at Pwn2Own last year? Read Safari, IE Defeated, Chrome, Firefox Survive. ]
Google is offering the money through its two-year-old Chromium Security Rewards program, which has paid out over $300,000 during its brief lifetime.
This year, Google has decided not to support Pwn2Own because the contest rules do not require full disclosure of the exploit.
"Full exploits have been handed over in previous years, but it's an explicit non-requirement in this year's contest, and that's worrisome," said Chris Evans and Justin Schuh, members of Google's Chrome security team, in a blog post. "We will therefore be running this alternative Chrome-specific reward program."
Pwn2Own will run as usual, without Google's sponsorship, from March 7th through March 9th. Hackers will have the option to attack any of the four major browsers--Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox--on fully patched versions of either Windows 7 or OS X Lion.
The top three winners will be awarded $60,000, $30,000, and $15,000 respectively from HP, and each will have the option of choosing one laptop from a group of three: an Asus Zenbook UX31 with a Core i7 CPU and 256-GB SSD, an Asus Zenbook UX21 with a Core i7 CPU and 256-GB SSD, or a Macbook Air 11" with a Core i7 CPU and 256-GB SSD.
To protect company and customer data, we need to determine what makes it so vulnerable and appealing. We also need to understand how hackers operate, and what tools and processes they rely on. In our How (And Why) Attackers Choose Their Targets report, we explain how to ensure the best defense by thinking like an attacker and identifying the weakest link in your own corporate data chain. (Free registration required.)