For the last two years, Tipping Point has sponsored the PWN2OWN contesact. The contest pays a sizeable prize for hackers to test their skills hacking multiple software and hardware products. This year's contest will be held at CanSecWest in Vancouver and will target browsers and smartphones. The browsers will include Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari. The platform this year will be a Sony notepad equipped with Window's 7. The smartphones being targeted this year will be Google's Android, Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Nokia's Symbian, and Apple's iPhone operating systems.
Tipping Point has sponsored the contest for the last two years. The prizes this year have not been decided, but last year they paid $10,000 for hacking a MacBook Air laptop in under two minutes and $5,000 for hacking a Fujitsu notebook running Windows Vista -- not a bad payout for one day's worth of work. In exchange for the prize money, winners must sign away the rights to their exploits. Tipping Point uses these exploits to help better their products as well as notifying the affected vendors.
I feel that these contests are definitely needed. I only wish that they could be held more frequently and would cover more platforms. The hackers that enter these contests offer an excellent insight into their craft. This is an unusual opportunity for security professionals to meet hackers on neutral territory and learn how to better protect the hardware and software that we all use and support. Lets face it, we are not going to end hacking so lets at least learn from it.