Google pays researcher $60K for Chrome hack

Patches bugs within 10 hours that 'Pinkie Pie' used at 'Pwnium 2' contest to claim cash

Google today awarded $60,000 to a security researcher who cracked Chrome at the search firm's second "Pwnium" hacking contest.

The researcher, a teenager who goes by the nickname "Pinkie Pie," was a returning winner: Last March, he was one of two who each won $60,000 for hacking the Chrome browser at Google's inaugural challenge.

Pwnium 2 took place at the Hack In The Box security conference this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Google made news two months ago when it announced the follow-up contest, saying then that it would put as much as $2 million on the line.

Pinkie Pie's $60,000 was the only reward handed out at Pwnium 2.

"This [exploit] relied on a WebKit Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) compromise to exploit the renderer process and a second bug in the IPC layer to escape the Chrome sandbox," Chris Evans, a Chrome software engineer, said in a Wednesday post to the Chromium blog. "Since this exploit depends entirely on bugs within Chrome to achieve code execution, it qualifies for our highest award level."

IPC stands for "inter-process communication," and is the technology used in Chrome to allow multiple active browser processes to "talk" to each other.

Google promised it would reveal more information about Pinkie Pie's exploit once other WebKit-built browsers -- Apple's Safari also relies on the open-source WebKit engine -- have been updated.

Earlier this year, Google delayed disclosing technical details about the March Pwnium hacks by Pinkie Pie and Sergey Glazunov until late May.

As he did last March, Jason Kersey, a Chrome program manager, called Pinkie Pie's hack a "beautiful work of art."

Google today patched the Chrome vulnerabilities Pinkie Pie used during the contest, and boasted of its turn-around time.

"We started analyzing the exploit as soon as it was submitted, and in fewer than 10 hours after Pwnium 2 concluded we were updating users with a freshly-patched version of Chrome," said Evans today.

In March, Google patched Pinkie Pie's and Glazunov's bugs within 24 hours.

The Chrome update -- version 22.0.1229.94 -- will automatically be downloaded and applied on Windows, Mac and Linux machines equipped with the browser.

So far this year, Google has paid out nearly $400,000 in bounties and prizes to security researchers who have reported vulnerabilities in Chrome.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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