TippingPoint: Contest-winning Safari flaw affects all Java-enabled browsers

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A research tag team on Friday hacked into a MacBook Pro at the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, showing off what appeared to be an unpatched vulnerability in the Safari web browser while winning a prize in the process.

On the conference floor at CanSecWest, Shane Macaulay took control of the Mac laptop by exploiting a vulnerability that was not patched in Thursday’s most recent round of Mac fixes.

For his effort, Macaulay won a MacBook, as well as £20,000 ($10,000) offered by TippingPoint to buy the flaw.

Macaulay held on to the laptop, but the cash prize went to this hacking partner, New York-based Dino Dai Zovi, who had discovered the flaw after being contacted by Macaulay, according to published reports.

The conference put up a pair of MacBook Pros as prizes for a remote zero-day flaw to exploit OS X. Interest picked up after TippingPoint sweetened the pot with a monetary prize.

Forslof said TippingPoint added the prize to increase interest to the event, and to ensure that the company would control the vulnerability.

"There were two primary reasons why I went ahead and (put up the $10,000 prize for the flaw)," she said. "They had said the ‘hack-a-Mac’ thing was lackluster, so to add a little incentive for it, for one, and two, to ensure that whatever vulnerability hacked the Mac, we could take care of it."

Jeremiah Grossman, founder and CTO of WhiteHat Security, told SCMagazine.com on Monday that the flaw is "not a good thing, but browser vulnerabilities are pretty common now."

Apple will have to weigh the flaw's danger level before deciding when to patch, said Grossman.

"Apple is going to have to go through their learning curve, just like Microsoft does with its user community," he said. "I don’t know how many people in the security community are using Safari; most are using Firefox."

Grossman said he couldn’t estimate how widely the flaw would be exploited.

"It’ll probably be here and there. Everything like this is exploited, but the question is how wide, given the market share," he said. "What we do know is how much money a vulnerability in Mac OS X will fetch you. On the black market, it would probably push a little bit higher, and that number is lower than what a Windows flaw would fetch."

Apple released its fourth security update this year on Thursday, when it distributed patches for 25 flaws, including 14 that allow malicious code execution. The newly discovered Safari flaw was not patched.

The release was the technology giant’s first since March 13, when it released 30 fixes.

Among the patches released on Thursday were three for Kerberos administration, all of which could be exploited for arbitrary code execution with system privileges, according to an Apple advisory.
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