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Edge, VirtualBox, Safari Hacked at Pwn2Own 2018

White hats managed to hack Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari and Oracle VirtualBox on the first day of the Pwn2Own 2018 competition taking place these days alongside the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, Canada.

There were only four entries on the first day of Pwn2Own 2018. First, Richard Zhu (aka fluorescence) attempted to perform a sandbox escape on Apple’s Safari web browser, but failed to do it in the 30-minute time slot. He did, however, manage to hack Microsoft Edge using two use-after-free bugs in the browser and an integer overflow in the Windows kernel. This attempt, which involved reworking his exploit on the spot, earned him $70,000.

Niklas Baumstark from the Phoenhex team had a partially successful entry against Oracle VirtualBox. While he did manage to execute code using out-of-bounds read and time of check to time of use (TOCTOU) bugs, he was awarded only $27,000 of the maximum of $35,000.

Finally, Samuel Groß (aka saelo) of the Phoenhex team earned $65,000 for executing code in Safari using a JIT optimization bug in the web browser, a logic flaw in macOS, and a kernel overwrite vulnerability.

Only three attempts are scheduled for the second day of the event, including two that target Safari and one that targets Mozilla Firefox. Contestants earned a total of $162,000 on the first day, and they will probably not earn much more on the second day, unless their exploits include a virtual machine escape via a kernel privilege escalation vulnerability, for which there is a bonus of $50,000-$70,000.

In comparison, last year’s event had roughly 30 entries and spanned across three days. Contestants earned more than $800,000 for a record-breaking 51 vulnerabilities.

The Zero Day Initiative (ZDI), which organizes Pwn2Own, said the number of white hat hackers that registered was initially higher, but some of them were forced to withdraw from the competition for various reasons, including due to their vulnerabilities being patched by Microsoft with the latest security updates.

ZDI announced in January a prize pool of $2 million for Pwn2Own 2018, which is backed by Microsoft and VMware.

While the Edge browser was hacked on the first try, Microsoft seems happy that contestants could not escape its Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) isolation protection. Escaping the WDAG container could have earned researchers between $10,000 and $250,000 at Pwn2Own.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.