Hacker earns $225,000 at Pwn2Own 2015

The 2015 edition of Pwn2Own is over. Participants discovered an incredible 21 critical bugs, resulting in a combined payout of $557,500.

Almost half of the money went to Jung Hoon Lee, aka lokihardt, who demonstrated a nasty attack against Chrome. His hack started with a buffer overflow race condition and then, to break out of the security sandbox that’s supposed to keep exploits from spilling over to Windows, executed attacks against two separate Windows kernel drivers. By the time the dust as settled, Lee had gained full system-level access.

That was enough to make him $110,000 richer. He earned $75,000 for breaking into Chrome, $25,000 for escalating to a system-wide attack, and $10,000 for proving the attack works against both the stable and beta versions of the browser.

Lee also executed an attack against Internet Explorer 11 that earned him $65,000 and demolished Safari with an exploit and sandbox escape that earned him $50,000. In total he took home $225,000. Not bad for a two-day event!

As impressive as Lee’s attacks were, he didn’t earn the record for most won by a single competitor. That honor goes to a French firm called VUPEN, which earned $400,000 in 2014 by demonstrating a range of attacks against Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash that involved 11 zero-day exploits. VUPEN is an organization, though, not an individual; Lee’s winnings are the most earned by a single person thus far.

Pwn2Own is an annual hacking competition hosted by HP that’s been active since 2007. It’s meant to give hackers incentive to reveal new attacks to software developers before they’re used in the wild.