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Nexus 6P, iPhone 6S Hacked at Mobile Pwn2Own 2016

Researchers who took part in the 2016 Mobile Pwn2Own competition in Tokyo, Japan, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in rewards after successfully hacking Apple’s iPhone 6S and Google’s Nexus 6P phones.

The two teams that registered for this year’s event are the Tencent Keen Security Lab Team, and Robert Miller and Georgi Geshev from MWR Labs. The Keen Lab team opened the Mobile Pwn2Own competition with an attempt to install a rogue application on a Nexus 6P without user interaction.

The researchers completed the task with a combination of two vulnerabilities and other Android weaknesses. The Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) awarded them $102,500 and 29 Master of Pwn points for the hack.

The same team has also tried to install a rogue application on an iPhone 6S, but the attempt was only partially successful – the installed app did not persist through a reboot due to a default configuration setting. Still, the hackers earned $60,000 of the maximum potential payout of $125,000 for the vulnerabilities they used.

Miller and Geshev from MWR Labs attempted to install a rogue app on a Nexus 6P, but their exploit was too unstable due to a recent Chrome update. Their attack method worked as recently as Tuesday, but they haven’t managed to demonstrate the exploit in the allocated timeframe.

Finally, the Keen Lab team earned another $52,500 and 16 Master of Pwn points for stealing photos from an iPhone 6S via a use-after-free vulnerability in the renderer and a memory corruption bug in the sandbox. The exploit worked despite the iOS 10 update pushed out by Apple this week.

Of the total potential payout of $375,000, researchers took home $215,000. For the Master of Pwn points they earned, Keen Lab will also receive 65,000 ZDI points, which are worth roughly $25,000.

Mobile Pwn2Own contestants could have also attempted to hack Samsung Galaxy S7 phones, but the prizes were considerably lower compared to Google and Apple devices. Participants could have also earned $250,000 for unlocking an iPhone.

Related: Hackers Invited to Target VMware at Pwn2Own 2016

Related: Pwn2Own 2016 - Hackers Earn $460,000 for 21 New Flaws

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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.