Right after Apple's release of a patch for 25 vulnerabilities in OS X, a hacker managed to break into a Mac by exposing a hole in Apple's browser Safari, winning a $10,000 prize as part of a contest started at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver, Canada. Initially, contestants were invited to try to access one of two Macs through a wireless access point while the Macs had no programs running. No attackers managed to do so, and so conference organizers allowed participants to try to get in through the browser by sending URLs via e-mail.
Dino Di Zovie, who lives in New York, sent along a URL that exposed the hole. Because the contest was only open to attendees in Vancouver, he sent it to a friend who was at the conference and forwarded it on. The URL opened a blank page but exposed a vulnerability in input handling in Safari which allowed an attacker to use the vulnerability in a number of ways, but Di Zovie used it to open a back door that gave him access to anything on the computer. The vulnerability won't be published. 3Com's TippingPoint division will handle disclosing it to Apple. The prize for the contest was originally one of the Macs but on Thursday evening, TippingPoint put up the cash award, which may have spurred a wider interest in the contest.
"Currently, every copy of OS X out there now is vulnerable to this," said Sean Comeau, one of the organizers of CanSecWest. The conference organizers decided to offer the contest in part to draw attention to possible security shortcomings in Macs. "You see a lot of people running OS X saying it's so secure, and frankly, Microsoft is putting more work into security than Apple has," said Dragos Ruiu, the principal organizer of security conferences including CanSecWest. Macs haven't been targets for hackers and malicious code writers because there are fewer Macs in use, thus making the potential impact of malicious code smaller than on the more widely used Windows PCs.