Security Experts:

Prizes Totaling $425,000 Announced for Mobile Pwn2Own

Security researchers are invited to demonstrate their mobile hacking skills at the Mobile Pwn2Own competition that's scheduled to take place later this year in Japan.

The third edition of Mobile Pwn2Own, the sister contest of Pwn2Own, will take place on November 12-13 alongside the PacSec Applied Security Conference in Tokyo. The organizers, HP’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI), have announced some changes for this year's edition: new devices have been added, the prize package has been rearranged, and the prize pool has been increased to $425,000 ($125,000 more compared to last year).

Mobile Pwn2Own 2014"With the near-ubiquity of mobile devices, vulnerabilities on these platforms are becoming increasingly coveted and are actively and vigorously hunted by criminals for exploitation. This contest helps to harden these devices by finding vulnerabilities first and sharing that research with mobile device and platform vendors," Brian Gorenc, manager of vulnerability research at HP's Security Research division and the man responsible for running ZDI, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

According to Gorenc, competitors can win $50,000 for hacking mobile Web browsers. The same amount can be won by finding remotely-exploitable vulnerabilities in operating systems or applications. For breaking short-distance communications like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Near Field Communication (NFC) participants can earn $75,000.

The largest prizes will be awarded for hacking messaging services, such as SMS, MMS or CMAS, and for finding vulnerabilities in the baseband processor of Apple iPhone, BlackBerry Z30 and Google Nexus phones. The reward for breaking messaging services is $100,000 while for successful baseband attacks it's $150,000.

The devices that can be targeted this year are: Amazon Fire Phone, Apple iPhone 5s, Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display, BlackBerry Z30, Google Nexus 5, Google Nexus 7, Nokia Lumia 1520 and Samsung Galaxy S5. Contestants can select the device they want to hack in the pre-registration phase of Mobile Pwn2Own, while the rest of the details (firmware, OS version and applications) will be coordinated after pre-registration, HP said.

The prize money will be awarded to the researcher who is first to compromise one of the targets, within a 30-minute timeframe, by using a previously unknown vulnerability. The exploit and a whitepaper detailing the flaw and the attack methods must then be handed over to ZDI. The security holes and exploits will be disclosed to the affected vendor.

"A successful attack against these devices must require no user interaction beyond the action required to browse to the malicious content. As always, the initial vulnerability used in the attack must be in the registered category," Gorenc explained. "The contestant must demonstrate remote code execution by bypassing sandboxes (if applicable) and exfiltrating sensitive information. To avoid interfering with licensed carrier networks, all RF attacks must be completed within the provided RF isolation enclosure.  The vulnerabilities utilized in the attack must be unpublished zero days."

Mobile Pwn2Own 2014 is also sponsored by Google’s Android Security Team and BlackBerry.

Last year, researchers demonstrated two exploits against Safari on iOS, and several exploits against default applications on Samsung Galaxy S4. The hacker known as "Pinkie Pie" compromised Chrome on  Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S4. The total amount of money claimed by participants was $117,500.

 Rules and eligibility requirements are available here. For registration, researchers with ZDI accounts must send an email to [email protected].

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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.