Researchers Exploit Safari Security Hole in Five Seconds at PWN2OWN


ZDNet reports that a MacBook running Safari was the first machine to fall victim to a security exploit in the PWN2OWN hacker challenge at the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, Canada. French security researchers compromised the MacBook and launched code within five seconds of contacting the machine, winning a $15,000 cash prize and a new 13-inch MacBook Air for their efforts.

VUPEN co-founder Chaouki Bekrar lured a target MacBook to a specially rigged website and successfully launched a calculator on the compromised machine.

The hijacked machine was running a fully patched version of Mac OS X (64-bit).

In an interview with ZDNet, Bekrar said the vulnerability exists in WebKit, the open-source browser rendering engine. A three-man team of researchers spent about two weeks to find the vulnerability (using fuzzers) and writing a reliable exploit.

While Bekrar noted some difficulties in preparing the exploit due to a lack of documentation on how to exploit 64-bit Mac OS X code, his team was ultimately able to bypass several anti-exploit tactics included in Mac OS X to demonstrate how a machine could become comprised simply by visiting a malicious webpage and without crashing the browser.

Macs have become popular targets for researchers seeking to find security holes, with CanSecWest being a major forum for discussion and demonstration of their work. In 2007, the conference sponsored a "Hack a Mac" contest with a $10,000 cash prize, although organizers did have to loosen the contest rules before researchers succeeded in compromising a MacBook.

The following year, a MacBook Air was the first to be compromised at PWN2OWN, falling victim to a exploit initiated through Safari. Apple released a Safari update just a few weeks later to address that issue. And in 2010, noted researcher Charlie Miller used the conference to expose 20 zero-day holes in Mac OS X, claiming that Mac users' infrequent run-ins with hackers have primarily been due to "security by obscurity", with most malicious hackers preferring to attack Windows platforms with substantially larger user bases.

Notably, Apple is said to have reached out to security researchers for the first time with the initial developer build of Mac OS X Lion, inviting them to test out the forthcoming operating system in hopes of finding and patching as many holes as possible before Lion reaches customers' hands later this year. Miller and some other researchers have, however, scaled back their reporting of security flaws to Apple in the face of its refusal to match other companies' offerings of cash rewards for finding such holes.

Top Stories

Apple-Acquired Dark Sky Officially Shuts Down Android App

Saturday August 1, 2020 3:43 pm PDT by
Apple in March purchased weather app Dark Sky, and at that time, Dark Sky's developers said that the app's Android version would be discontinued on July 1, 2020. However, instead of shuttering the app on that date, the app's developers announced that the discontinuation would be delayed for another month. Now that it's August, Android users are no longer able to access the app, and...

Apple May Launch This Year's 'iPhone 12' Lineup in Two Stages, With 6.1-inch Models Debuting First

Monday August 3, 2020 3:14 am PDT by
Apple last week confirmed that its "‌iPhone‌ 12" launch will be delayed this year due to the ongoing global health crisis and restrictions on travel. Apple last year started selling iPhones in late September, but this year, Apple projects supply will be "available a few weeks later," suggesting a release sometime in October. We're expecting a total of four OLED iPhones in 5.4, 6.1, and...

Top Stories: Try the 5.4-Inch iPhone 12 Display Size, Blockbuster Earnings, Tim Cook at Antitrust Hearing

Saturday August 1, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
Another busy week of Apple news and rumors has wrapped up, with a lot of focus on Tim Cook's appearance at a Congressional antitrust hearing and a blockbuster earnings report. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We continued to hear rumors about the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup, including a rare admission from Apple that the lineup will launch "a few weeks later" than...

Just How Small Will the 5.4-Inch iPhone 12 Screen Be? Try It Out for Yourself

Tuesday July 28, 2020 12:57 pm PDT by
As rumors of the iPhone 12 have continued to build over the past few months, the one model that has the most excitement around it is the smallest 5.4" model. The iPhone 12 is believed to be coming in 5.4", 6.7", and 6.1" sizes. Dummy models have shown how much smaller the 5.4" is compared to the rest of the iPhone lineup. The upcoming 5.4" iPhone falls in-between the size of the original...

Unreleased iPod Touch with Mac Pro Glossy Black Finish Shared Online

Sunday August 2, 2020 11:32 am PDT by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today posted images of what seems to be a first-generation iPod Touch prototype with a 2013 Mac Pro-style glossy black finish. The Twitter user claims that the iPod Touch prototype pictured has "the same coating as the 2013 Mac Pro." Had the finish been selected for the final product, it also would have been similar to the metallic glossy black finish that...

Apple Confirms This Year's iPhone 12 Models Will Be a Little Bit Late

Thursday July 30, 2020 2:34 pm PDT by
During today's earnings call covering the third fiscal quarter of 2020 (second calendar quarter) Apple CFO Luca Maestri confirmed that Apple is expecting to release this year's iPhones later than usual. Maestri said that Apple last year started selling iPhones in late September, but this year, Apple projects supply will be "available a few weeks later." Multiple rumors have suggested that ...

Battery Likely for Upcoming Apple Watch Series 6 Filed in Certification Listings

Saturday August 1, 2020 5:46 am PDT by
A battery likely for the upcoming Apple Watch Series 6 has been filed at the Korea Testing and Research Institute and discovered by a Twitter user @yabhishekhd. Certification for a 1.17Wh battery with a capacity of 303.8mAh was issued on June 23 by the KTR, a Korean regulatory body that approves and tests new hardware ahead of public sale. The battery seems to be destined for a future...

Apple Watch Series 6 to Feature Blood Oxygen Monitoring Sensor

Friday July 31, 2020 1:56 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 6 will add blood oxygen monitoring to its features list when it's launched later this year, according to a new report from DigiTimes. Apple Watch 6 will feature biosensors that can monitor sleeping conditions, detect blood oxygen and measure pulse rates, heartbeats and atrial fibrillation, and will also incorporate MEMS-based accelerometer and gyroscope, all allowing the ...

Apple Marks Return of NHL With New 'Hockey Tape' Ad Shot on iPhone 11 Pro

Saturday August 1, 2020 2:33 am PDT by
Apple today marked the return of NHL hockey with a new "Shot on iPhone" ad on its YouTube channel in Canada. Titled "Hockey Tape," the 30-second video features Vegas Golden Knights players Marc-André Fleury and Mark Stone having some on-ice fun with the iPhone 11 Pro, which they attach to the boards, a hockey stick, and a skate with hockey tape. "See the game like never before with Ultra ...

Emails Reveal Why Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller Blocked In-App Purchase of Kindle Books

Friday July 31, 2020 6:25 am PDT by
Internal Apple emails, made public by the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust inquiry, have revealed information about why Apple blocked in-app purchases of Kindle books on iOS devices, reports The Verge. Two sets of emails between Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller, Eddy Cue, and various other senior Apple executives, disclose the exact thinking behind how Apple approached Kindle on iOS. The...