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Pwn2Own 2014: Rules and Unicorns

Brian_Gorenc ‎01-30-2014 11:04 AM - edited ‎03-07-2014 09:06 AM

HP’s Zero Day Initiative is once again expanding the scope of its annual Pwn2Own contest, with a new competition that combines multiple vulnerabilities for a challenge of unprecedented difficulty and reward.


Last year we launched a plug-in track to the competition, in addition to our traditional browser targets. We’ll continue both tracks this year. For 2014, we’re introducing a complex Grand Prize challenge with multiple components, including a bypass of Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) protections – truly an Exploit Unicorn worthy of myth and legend, plus $150,000 to the researcher who can tame it (for additional background on this new category, see additional blog post here).


Pwn2Own prize funds this year are expected to total over half a million dollars (USD) in cash and non-cash awards. As they did last year, our friends at Google are joining us in sponsoring all targets in the 2014 competition.


Contest dates

The contest will take place March 12-13 in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the CanSecWest 2014 conference. The schedule of contestants and platforms will be determined by random drawing at the conference venue and posted at prior to the start of competition.


Rules and prizes

The 2014 competition consists of three divisions: Browsers, Plug-Ins, and the Grand Prize. All target machines will be running the latest fully patched versions of the relevant operating systems (Windows 8.1 x64 and OS X Mavericks), installed in their default configurations. The vulnerability or vulnerabilities used in each attack must be unknown and not previously reported to the vendor. A particular vulnerability can only be used once across all categories.


The first contestant to successfully compromise a target within the 30-minute time limit wins the prize in that category.


The 2014 targets are:



  • Google Chrome on Windows 8.1 x64: $100,000
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1 x64: $100,000
  • Mozilla Firefox on Windows 8.1 x64: $50,000
  • Apple Safari on OS X Mavericks: $65,000



  • Adobe Reader running in Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1 x64: $75,000
  • Adobe Flash running in Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1 x64: $75,000
  • Oracle Java running in Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1 x64 (requires click-through bypass): $30,000


“Exploit Unicorn” Grand Prize:

  • SYSTEM-level code execution on Windows 8.1 x64 on Internet Explorer 11 x64 with EMET (Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit) bypass: $150,000*


Please see the Pwn2Own 2014 rules for complete descriptions of the challenges. In particular, taming the Exploit Unicorn is a multi-step process, and competitors should be as familiar as possible with the necessary sequence of vulnerabilities required: The initial vulnerability utilized in the attack must be in the browser. The browser’s sandbox must be bypassed using a vulnerability in the sandbox. A separate privilege escalation vulnerability must be used to obtain SYSTEM-level arbitrary code execution on the target. The exploit must work when Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) protections are enabled.


In addition to the cash prizes listed above, successful competitors will receive the laptop on which they demonstrate the compromise. They’ll also receive 20,000 ZDI reward points, which immediately qualifies them for Silver standing in the benefits program. (ZDI Silver standing includes a one-time $5,000 cash payout, a 15% monetary bonus on all vulnerabilities submitted to ZDI during the next calendar year, a 25% reward-point bonus on all vulnerabilities submitted to ZDI over the next calendar year, and paid travel and registration to attend the 2014 DEFCON conference in Las Vegas.)


As ever, vulnerabilities and exploit techniques revealed by contest winners will be disclosed to the affected vendors, and the proof of concept will become the property of HP in accordance with the HP ZDI program. If the affected vendors wish to coordinate an onsite transfer at the conference venue, HP ZDI is able to accommodate that request.


The full set of rules for Pwn2Own 2014 is available here. They may be changed at any time without notice.



Pre-registration is required to ensure we have sufficient resources on hand in Vancouver. Please contact ZDI at to begin the registration process. (Email only, please; queries via Twitter, blog post, or other means will not be acknowledged or answered.) If we receive more than one registration for any category, we’ll hold a random drawing to determine contestant order. Registration closes at 5pm Pacific time on March 11, 2014.


Follow the action will be updated periodically with blogs, photos and videos between now and the competition, and in real time during the event. If it becomes necessary to hold a drawing to determine contestant order, we will also update the site in real time during that process. Follow us on Twitter at @thezdi, and keep an eye on the #pwn2own hashtag for more coverage.


Press: Please direct all Pwn2Own or ZDI-related media inquiries to Cassy Lalan,


(*Real-life unicorn prize subject to availability)







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