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Hackers take down iPhone, Safari, IE8 and Firefox in one day at Pwn2Own

Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla security breached

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Hackers took down Apple's iPhone and Safari browser, Microsoft's Internet Explore 8 (IE8) and Mozilla's Firefox within minutes at today's Pwn2Own contest, as expected.

The two-man team of Vincenzo Iozzo and Ralf-Philipp Weinmann exploited the iPhone in under five minutes, said a spokeswoman for 3Com TippingPoint, the security company that sponsored the contest. The pair also walked away with $15,000 in cash, a record prize for the challenge, which is in its fourth year.

Iozzo, an Italian college student, works for Zynamics GmbH, the company headed by noted researcher Thomas Dullien, better known as Halvar Flake, while Weinmann is a post-doctoral researcher at the Laboratory of Algorithms, Cryptology and Security at the University of Luxembourg.

Weinmann is probably best known for being part of a three-man team that in 2007 demonstrated how to crack the Wi-Fi security protocol WEP much faster than previously thought possible.

Charlie Miller, an analyst at Independent Security Evaluators, brought down Safari on a MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard for a three-peat at Pwn2Own.

Miller won prizes in both 2008 and 2009 by hacking a Mac; last year, Miller cracked Safari in just 10 seconds. For his work today, Miller walked off with the notebook and $10,000 in cash. No one else has won at Pwn2Own three times.

When his turn came, Pwn2Own newcomer Peter Vreugdenhil successfully exploited a vulnerability in IE8 running on Windows 7 with attack code called "technically impressive" by TippingPoint because it bypassed the operating system's Data Execution Prevention, or DEP, security mechanism, which is designed to stop most attacks.

Like Miller, Vreugdenhil, a freelance vulnerability researcher from the Netherlands, earned a $10,000 prize. Another former winner, a German computer science student known only by his first name, Nils, was awarded $10,000 for hacking Firefox on Windows 7.

Of the browsers set up as targets for the contest, only Google's Chrome remained standing on the first day.

TippingPoint does not release details of the vulnerabilities exploited for Pwn2Own, but instead purchases the rights to the flaws and exploit code as part of the contest. It then turns over information to the appropriate vendors, who all had representatives on hand.

Only after the vendor has plugged the hole does TippingPoint disclose details of each flaw.

If history is any indication, vendors will push out patches for the exploited vulnerabilities fairly quickly. In 2008, for example, Apple took just three weeks to patch the Safari bug that Miller used to win $10,000 at his inaugural Pwn2Own.

Mozilla beat that record last year when it updated Firefox a week after Nils exploited the browser.


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