Tired of all the knee-jerk banter from fanboys about whose operating system is the most secure? So are the organizers of the CanSecWest security conference, which will be held in Vancouver later this month. And with a contest awarding as much as $25,000 worth of prizes, they're likely to breathe fresh life into a stale debate.
This year's Pwn2Own competition will place three brand-new, fully patched laptops side by side: a Fujitsu U810 running Vista Ultimate, a Vaio VGN-TZ37Cn running Ubuntu 7.10 and a MacBook Air running Leopard. The first person to remotely run code on each one gets to take the machine home, and is automatically entered into the running for a $25,000 award from TippingPoint, whose Zero Day Initiative pays bounties to researchers for responsibly disclosing vulnerabilities.
At last year's Pwn2Own contest, conference organizers challenged attendees to hack into one of two fully patched MacBookPros to claim the machine and a $10,000 bounty from TippingPoint. Security guru Dino Dai Zovi, spent less than 12 hours doing just that, crafting a QuickTime exploit that allowed him to take complete control of the machine.
CanSecWest's Pwn2Own contests are useful because they allow us to isolate the technical strengths and weaknesses of a given platform from its popularity. Acrimonious debate has fomented for years about whether the high number of real-world Windows exploits - compared to those of OS X, Linux and other operating systems - is a natural consequence of having a 90-percent chunk of the market or the result of sloppy and insecure coding practices at Microsoft.
Operating System, Windows Vista, Mac OS X, Ubuntu, Linux