Researchers hack Internet Explorer 11 and Chrome at Mobile Pwn2Own

Previously unknown vulnerabilities in the two browsers were exploited to fully compromise Windows 8.1 and Android mobile devices

Security researchers have compromised Microsoft Surface RT, Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S4 devices by exploiting previously unknown vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 11 running on Windows 8.1 and Google Chrome running on Android.

The exploits were demonstrated during the Mobile Pwn2Own hacking contest that ran Wednesday and Thursday at the PacSec Applied Security Conference in Tokyo.

Researchers Abdul Aziz Hariri and Matt Molinyawe from Hewlett-Packard's Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) team, which organized the contest, demonstrated an Internet Explorer 11 exploit on a Microsoft Surface RT device running Windows 8.1.

"Exploiting a bug in IE is difficult in general because of the protections and security controls they've implemented," Hariri said. The vulnerability was exploited twice in order to leak a memory address and then gain remote code execution, "which gave us full control over the whole machine," he said.

The vulnerability was reported to Microsoft so the company can protect users, Molinyawe said.

Another researcher who uses the pseudonym Pinkie Pie compromised Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S4 devices by exploiting a vulnerability in Chrome.

Achieving remote code execution through a Chrome vulnerability is considered very difficult because of the application sandbox that separates the browser's processes from the operating system.

There have been only a handful of Chrome sandbox escape exploits demonstrated over the years and most of them were presented by researchers at hacking contests. Pinkie Pie hacked Chrome's sandbox two times before in 2012 as part of Google's Pwnium contests.

The researcher's new Chrome exploit chained together an integer overflow vulnerability and a sandbox escape one, earning him a prize of US$50,000.

The standard prize for compromising a mobile device through a Web browser at Mobile Pwn2Own was $40,000, but the Google Chrome Security Team offered a $10,000 bonus if the hacked browser was Chrome running on Nexus 4 or Samsung Galaxy S4.

Pinkie Pie secured the win by demonstrating his exploit on Nexus 4, but then for show, he repeated the feat on Samsung Galaxy S4.

In order for the attack to work the potential victim has to click on a link to a specifically crafted Web page sent via email, SMS or found on another website. Once the malicious page is opened in Chrome, the attack executes without any other user interaction and allows arbitrary code execution on the operating system.

As the contest rules dictate, the vulnerabilities exploited by Pinkie Pie were reported to Google so they can be fixed.

The Mobile Pwn2Own contest ended with participating researchers winning $117,500 out of a prize pool of over $300,000.

A team of security researchers from Japanese company Mitsui Bussan Secure Directions hacked into a Samsung Galaxy S4 device by exploiting vulnerabilities in unnamed applications pre-installed on the device by the manufacturer. A team of Chinese researchers hacked into two iPhone 5 devices running iOS 7.0.3 and iOS 6.1.4 respectively by exploiting vulnerabilities in Safari.

The Japanese team won $40,000 because their attack resulted in a full compromise of the device, and the Chinese team won $27,500 because their attack resulted in theft of data, like session cookies, photos and contacts.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags samsungGoogleMicrosoftsecurityMobile OSesmobileExploits / vulnerabilitiesHewlett-Packard

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?