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Google Chrome the first browser hacked at Pwn2Own 2012

Google Chrome the first browser hacked at Pwn2Own 2012


Google's Chrome browser was the first to fall at this year's Pwn2Own hacking competition as the CanSecWest security conference. Last year, Chrome came away from the event unscathed.

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It seems escaping Pwn2Own unscathed last year put a target on Google Chrome's back, as the browser was the first to fall to exploits at this year's event. Pwn2Own is a hacking competition that takes place at the annual CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver. The goal is to exploit browsers and mobile devices to take full control of a system. This year, Vupen, the first team that successfully cracked Safari last year, set its sights on Chrome first after developing a plan of attack for six weeks. Its method took advantage of two zero-day exploits — unknown issues with a shipping product — and a baited website set up during the hack. Once the computer visited the site, the exploit ran and opened up the Chrome calculator extension outside of the browsers sandbox, demonstrating complete control of the up-to-date 64-bit Windows 7 box.

Vupen had previously released a video cracking Chrome, but Google rejected it, stating the hackers had used exploits found in third-party code, most likely Flash. Vupen wouldn't reveal how they accomplished gaining control of the system this time around, but noted they had hacked a completely default version of the browser. Because Flash is pre-installed as part of Chrome, they could very well have used a similar exploit.

Even though Chrome fell this year, Vupen co-founder Chaoki Bekrar told ZDNet that "the Chrome sandbox is the most secure sandbox out there. It’s not an easy task to create a full exploit to bypass all the protections in the sandbox." Still, if all it takes is drive, a fair bit of know-how, and a simple booby-trapped webpage to take over a system via a browser, it goes to show just how insecure we are online.