By Robert McMillan
IDG News Service
March 27, 2008
It may be the quickest $10,000 Charlie Miller ever earned.
He took the first of three laptop computers -- and a $10,000 cash prize
-- Thursday after breaking into a MacBook Air at the CanSecWest security
conference's PWN 2 OWN hacking contest.
Show organizers offered a Sony Vaio, Fujitsu U810, and the MacBook as
prizes, saying that they could be won by anybody at the show who could
find a way to hack into each of them and read the contents of a file on
the system using a previously undisclosed "0day" attack.
Nobody was able to hack into the systems on the first day of the contest
when contestants were only allowed to attack the computers over the
network, but on Thursday, the rules were relaxed so that attackers could
direct contest organizers using the computers to do things like visit
Web sites or open e-mail messages.
Miller, best known as one of the researchers who first hacked Apple's
iPhone last year, didn't take much time. Within 2 minutes, he directed
the contest's organizers to visit a Web site that contained his exploit
code, which then allowed him to seize control of the computer, as about
20 onlookers cheered him on.
He was the first contestant to attempt an attack on any of the systems.
Miller was quickly given a nondisclosure agreement to sign, and he's not
allowed to discuss particulars of his bug until the contest's sponsor,
TippingPoint, can notify the vendor.
Contest rules state that Miller could only take advantage of software
that was preinstalled on the Mac, so the flaw he exploited must have
been accessible by, or possibly inside, Apple's Safari browser.
Last year's contest winner, Dino Dai Zovi, exploited a vulnerability in
QuickTime to take home the prize.
Dai Zovi, who congratulated Miller after his hack, didn't participate in
this year's contest, saying it was time for someone else to win.
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