Researchers hack IE9 during second day at Pwn2Own

Researchers from VUPEN Security exploited previously unknown vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 9 at the CanSecWest conference

Internet Explorer 9 was the second browser to succumb to white-hat hackers during the Pwn2Own contest at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver.

A team of vulnerability researchers from French security firm VUPEN Security exploited a pair of previously unknown vulnerabilities in the latest version of Microsoft's browser on Thursday.

The attack was demonstrated on a fully patched 64-bit Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 system and earned the VUPEN team 32 points in the annual Pwn2Own competition sponsored by TippingPoint's Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) program.

The rules have changed for this year's Pwn2Own contest, its focus shifting from who can hack a browser faster, as it was in previous editions, to who can write the highest number of reliable exploits. Researchers earn 32 points for exploiting previously unknown browser vulnerabilities, also known as zero-days, and 10 points for exploiting patched vulnerabilities selected by the organizers.

VUPEN is currently in the lead with 124 points, 64 of which were earned for a zero-day exploit against Google Chrome on Wednesday and a similar one against Internet Explorer 9 on Thursday. The team claims to have similar exploits for Apple's Safari and Mozilla Firefox.

VUPEN's Internet Explorer 9 exploit leveraged two vulnerabilities -- a remote code execution (RCE) that bypassed the browser's anti-exploitation mechanisms like DEP (Data Execution Prevention) or ASLR (address space layout randomization) and one that bypassed its post-exploitation defense, commonly known as the sandbox, or Protected Mode in Internet Explorer's case.

The Internet Explorer 9 Protected Mode limits what attackers can do on the OS once they exploit a RCE vulnerability inside the browser. However, according to security researchers, IE's Protected Mode is less restrictive than Google Chrome's sandbox. This is expected to improve with Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8.

It's also worth noting that the order in which browsers get attacked at this year's Pwn2Own contest has nothing to do with difficulty. Participating researchers come with their zero-day exploits prepared in advance and the order in which they demonstrate them is purely a matter of personal choice rather than an indication of one browser being harder to hack than another.

The zero-day RCE vulnerabilities are shared with TippingPoint, but not the sandbox-escape ones, which are considered highly valuable and rare. The organizers will share the details with the affected vendors after the contest is over.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?