MacBook Air hacked in security contest

A security company has awarded $10,000, and a free MacBook Air, to a group of security researchers who gained control of the system through a Safari vulnerability.

A team of security researchers has won $10,000 for hacking a MacBook Air in two minutes using an undisclosed Safari vulnerability.

IDG News Service is camped out at CanSecWest in lovely Vancouver, Canada, and has chronicled the exploits (gotta love security puns) of Charlie Miller, Jake Honoroff, and Mark Daniel of Independent Security Evaluators during the Pwn to Own contest sponsored by TippingPoint. The team was able to gain control of a MacBook Air on the second day of the hacking competition, which pitted the Air against Windows Vista and Ubuntu machines.

Charlie Miller pwns a MacBook Air at CanSecWest. TippingPoint

No one was able to execute code on any of the systems on Wednesday, the first day of the contest, when hacks were limited to over-the-network techniques on the operating systems themselves. But on the second day, the rules changed to allow attacks delivered by tricking someone to visit a maliciously crafted Web site, or open an e-mail. Hackers were also allowed to target "default installed client-side applications," such as browsers.

The team had attack code already set up on a Web site, and was able to gain access to the MacBook Air and retrieve a file after judges were "tricked" into visiting the site. According to the TippingPoint DVLabs blog, a newly discovered vulnerability in Safari was used to gain control of the Air.

The contest rules stipulated that winners immediately sign a nondisclosure agreement relating to their technique, so that the vulnerability could be disclosed to the vendor, and TippingPoint said Apple has been informed of the vulnerability.

Last year's contest was won by exploiting a QuickTime vulnerability, which was patched by Apple in less than two weeks. As of the time I posted this, no one had gained control of the Vista or Ubuntu machines, but I'll update later as the results come in over the rest of the afternoon.

UPDATED 3/29 11:45am PT - The Vista laptop fell on the last day of the conference. Check out this story for more details.

About the author

    Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.

     

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