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Pwn2Own Vancouver 2024: Bringing Cloud-Native/Container Security to Pwn2Own

If you just want to read the contest rules, click here.

Even though we’re a week out from our first ever Pwn2Own Automotive, it’s time to start thinking ahead to the original Pwn2Own event, which takes place at CanSecWest in Vancouver on March 20-22, 2024. We’re always excited to return to Vancouver for the event, but we are cognizant of the evolution of the event as well. The contest began with a single Mac Book, but over the years, it grew to include web browsers, enterprise applications, virtualization solutions, and an automotive category. Last year, we awarded over $1,000,000 in cash and prizes – including a Tesla Model 3. This year, we evolved again by simplifying the Automotive category and adding a Cloud-Native/Container category.

We introduced the Virtualization category back in 2016 because we wanted to see what the state-of-the-art in exploits targeting hypervisors looked like. Many cloud services rely on virtualization, and that was the beginning of bringing “The Cloud™” into Pwn2Own. Since that time, the industry has adopted other cloud-native technologies and made containers a central part of enterprise deployments. Of course, that just makes them a great choice to include in Pwn2Own, and we’re excited to see what exploits contestants bring for these targets.

Of course, we’re also thrilled to have Tesla return as a partner for this year’s event. They continue to innovate and increase the security of their vehicles, and I’m sure they will take the learnings from Pwn2Own Automotive forward to the Vancouver event. We simplified the Automotive category by eliminating the multiple tiers. For this event, we’re focused simply on impact and getting code execution in a target component on the vehicle. For some targets, that may mean you need to get code execution in multiple systems on the way. And no, the awards aren’t cumulative. For example, you may need to exploit the infotainment system on the way to the Autopilot, but you’ll only get the award for the Autopilot.

In addition to the new categories, we’ve added Slack as a target within the Enterprise Communications category. This, along with all the other returning categories, means that we’ll again be offering more than $1,000,000 USD in cash and prizes at this year’s event. All-in-all, it should be a wonderful event with some cutting-edge exploitation on display. Here is a full list of the categories for this year’s event:


— Web Browser Category
— Cloud-Native/Container Category
— Virtualization Category
— Enterprise Applications Category
— Server Category
— Local Escalation of Privilege Category
— Enterprise Communications Category
— Automotive Category

Of course, no Pwn2Own competition would be complete without us crowning a Master of Pwn. Since the order of the contest is decided by a random draw, contestants with an unlucky draw could still demonstrate fantastic research but receive less money since subsequent rounds go down in value. However, the points awarded for each unique, successful entry do not go down. Someone could have a bad draw and still accumulate the most points. The person or team with the most points at the end of the contest will be crowned Master of Pwn, receive 65,000 ZDI reward points (instant Platinum status), a killer trophy, and a pretty snazzy jacket to boot.

Let’s look at the details of the rules for this year’s event.

Web Browser Category

While browsers are the “traditional” Pwn2Own target, we’re continuously tweaking the targets in this category to ensure they remain relevant. We re-introduced renderer-only exploits a couple of years ago, and their reward remains at $60,000. However, if you have that Windows kernel privilege escalation or sandbox escape, that will earn you up to $100,000 or $150,000 respectively. If your exploit works on both Chrome and Edge, it will qualify for the “Double Tap” add-on of $25,000. The Windows-based targets will be running in a VMware Workstation virtual machine. Consequently, all browsers (except Safari) are eligible for a VMware escape add-on. If a contestant can compromise the browser in such a way that also executes code on the host operating system by escaping the VMware Workstation virtual machine, they will earn themselves an additional $80,000 and 8 more Master of Pwn points. Full exploits are still required for Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox. Here’s a detailed look at the targets and available payouts:


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Cloud-Native/Container Category

We’re excited to have this new category for the contest, and we are hopeful our contestants bring their usual stellar research to the event. Of course, you can’t talk containers without mentioning Docker Desktop, and they’re the first target on the list. However, they aren’t alone. The containerd runtime is an industry standard and always popular. Firecracker is our third target as they are a common choice for creating and managing secure, multi-tenant container and function-based services.

For an attempt to be ruled a success against these three, the exploit must be launched from within the guest container/microVM and execute arbitrary code on the host operating system. The final target in this category is gRPC – a modern open-source high-performance Remote Procedure Call (RPC) framework that can run in any environment.  A success here must leverage a vulnerability in the gRPC code base to obtain arbitrary code execution. Here are the payouts for this category:


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Virtualization Category

Some of the highlights for each contest can be found in the Virtualization Category, and we’re thrilled to see what this year’s event could bring with it. As usual, VMware is the main highlight of this category as we’ll have VMware ESXi alongside VMware Workstation as a target with awards of $150,000 and $80,000 respectively. Microsoft also returns as a target and leads the virtualization category with a $250,000 award for a successful Hyper-V Client guest-to-host escalation. Oracle VirtualBox rounds out this category with a prize of $40,000.

There’s an add-on bonus in this category as well. If a contestant can escape the guest OS, then escalate privileges on the host OS through a Windows kernel vulnerability (excluding VMware ESXi), they can earn an additional $50,000 and 5 more Master of Pwn points. That could push the payout on a Hyper-V bug to $300,000. Here’s a detailed look at the targets and available payouts in the Virtualization category:


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Enterprise Applications Category

Enterprise applications also return as targets with Adobe Reader and various Office components on the target list once again. This year, we’re also allowing these applications to be run on an M-series MacBook. Prizes in this category run from $50,000 for a Reader exploit with a sandbox escape or a Reader exploit with a kernel privilege escalation and $100,000 for an Office 365 application. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are all valid targets. Microsoft Office-based targets will have Protected View enabled where applicable. Adobe Reader will have Protected Mode enabled where applicable. Here’s a detailed view of the targets and payouts in the Enterprise Application category:


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Server Category

The Server Category for 2024 is trimmed down a bit to focus on the server components we’re most interested in. These servers are often targeted by everyone from ransomware crews to nation/state actors, so we know there are exploits out there for them. The only question is whether we’ll see any of the competitors bring one of those exploits to Pwn2Own. SharePoint was recently exploited in the wild, and part of that exploit chain was demonstrated at last year’s event. Microsoft Exchange has been a popular target for some time, and it returns as a target this year as well with a payout of $200,000. This category is rounded out by Microsoft Windows RDP/RDS, which also has a payout of $200,000. Here’s a detailed look at the targets and payouts in the Server category:


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Local Escalation of Privilege Category

This category is a classic for Pwn2Own and focuses on attacks that originate from a standard user and result in executing code as a high-privileged user. A successful entry in this category must leverage a kernel vulnerability to escalate privileges. Ubuntu Desktop, Apple macOS, and Microsoft Windows 11 are the OSes available as targets in this category. 


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Enterprise Communications Category

We introduced this category in 2021 to reflect the importance of these tools in our modern, remote workforce, and we were thrilled to see both targets compromised during the contest. This year, we’re expanding the category to include the ever-popular Slack productivity platform with a $25,000 payout. A successful attempt in this category must compromise the target application by communicating with the contestant. Some example communication requests could be audio calls, video conferences, or messages. Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams have a $60,000 award available, so we’re hoping to see more great research in this category.


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Automotive Category

Since adding the Automotive Category in 2019, we’ve seen some amazing and creative research displayed – so much so that we expanded to holding a Pwn2Own Automotive event. Still, Vancouver is where this category began, and we’re happy to have Tesla return as a target. As previously mentioned, we’ve streamlined the rules for this category this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to win. We’ll have both the Tesla Model 3 (Ryzen-based) and Tesla Model S (Ryzen-based) as target, and we’ll also have the equivalent bench-top unit ready should it be needed. Last year, we conducted all tests on the bench-top unit as attempting the exploits on the actual vehicle could prove hazardous to bystanders and other vehicles in the area. Here are this year awards for the Automotive Category:

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Conclusion

The complete rules for Pwn2Own 2024 are found here. As always, we encourage entrants to read the rules thoroughly if they choose to participate. If you are thinking about participating but have specific configuration or rule-related questions, email us. Questions asked over X (nee Twitter) or other means will not be answered. Registration is required to ensure we have sufficient resources on hand at the event. Please contact ZDI at pwn2own@trendmicro.com to begin the registration process. Registration closes at 5 p.m. Pacific Time on March 14, 2024.

Be sure to stay tuned to this blog and follow us on TwitterMastodonLinkedIn, or Instagram for the latest information and updates about the contest. We look forward to seeing everyone wherever they may be, and we hope someone has a new car to drive home from this year’s Pwn2Own competition.

With special thanks to our Pwn2Own 2024 Partner Tesla

 

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