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Researchers Hack Windows, Ubuntu, macOS at Pwn2Own 2020

On the first day of the Pwn2Own 2020 hacking competition, participants earned a total of $180,000 for demonstrating exploits targeting Windows 10, Ubuntu Desktop and macOS.

Pwn2Own typically takes place at the CanSecWest cybersecurity conference in Vancouver, Canada, and participants have to attend in person. However, due to concerns related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, the competition’s organizer, the Zero Day Initiative (ZDI), has decided that for the first time the event will be completely virtual.

On the first day of Pwn2Own 2020, a team from the Georgia Tech Systems Software & Security Lab successfully executed code on macOS through Safari. Their exploit chain, which involved popping a calculator through Safari and escalating privileges to root by chaining six different vulnerabilities, earned them $70,000.

Manfred Paul of the RedRocket CTF team earned $30,000 for a local privilege escalation exploit targeting Ubuntu Desktop. His exploit leveraged an improper input validation bug.

Amat Cama and Richard Zhu of Team Fluoroacetate have earned $40,000 for a local privilege escalation exploit targeting Windows 10. Zhu also earned another $40,000 for a different privilege escalation exploit targeting Windows 10.

Cama and Zhu have often taken part in Pwn2Own, and their exploits have earned them hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last year they even won a Tesla Model 3 after hacking its web browser.

On the second day of Pwn2Own 2020, participants will attempt to hack Oracle VirtualBox, VMware Workstation and Adobe Reader.

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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.