Pwn2Own contest puts US$75,000 bounty on VMware Workstation bypass

Bad timing for users after VMware laid off Workstation developers in January

The Pwn2Own hacking contest will return in March, pitting researchers against the most popular browsers and operating systems. The novelty: Contestants can win a US$75,00 prize for escaping a VMware virtual machine.

Contestants will be able to exploit Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome on fully patched versions of 64-bit Windows 10 and Apple Safari on OS X El Capitan. System or root-level privilege escalation pays extra, as does escaping from the virtual machine.

Every year, Pwn2Own, at the CanSecWest security conference, has slightly modified rules, and 2016 is no different. Adobe Reader, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer are no longer on the contest's target list. Adobe Flash remains, but only the version that comes bundled with Microsoft Edge.

Exploiting Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge will earn hackers $65,000, while exploiting Apple Safari on Mac only $40,000. Achieving system-level access on Windows or root access on Mac OS X would add another $20,000 to the final payout.

The significant prize differences between Chrome, Edge and Safari exploits might stem from protections on Windows offered by the Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).

EMET is a tool, primarily aimed at businesses, that applies various exploit mitigation technologies to applications that otherwise lack them. This adds additional complexity and significant hurdles for exploit developers.

On top of that, the Windows environment will run as a guest OS in a virtual machine created with VMware Workstation. Breaking out of the virtual machine is not mandatory, but those who do so will earn an additional $75,000.

Potential vulnerabilities in Workstation would not be good news for VMware, which laid off most of its developers working on the product in January. The company said at the time that its computing virtualization products like Workstation and Fusion have reached maturity and will play a decreasing role in its business.

Pwn2Own has been historically organized by security appliance maker TippingPoint, a division of Hewlett Packard that also runs the Zero Day Initiative, a vulnerability acquisition program. However, because Trend Micro entered into an agreement to acquire TippingPoint in October, this year's Pwn2Own will be sponsored by both Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Trend Micro.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
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

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

PC World Evaluation Team Review - MSI GT75 TITAN

"I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it."

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?