Bug bounty program slates $300K mobile hacking contest for Nov.

HP TippingPoint's ZDI, along with Google and BlackBerry, will sponsor November edition of Pwn2Own that focuses on smartphones and tablets

HP TippingPoint's bug bounty program today said it will again sponsor a mobile-only hacking contest this fall, when it will put up $300,000 in prize money for researchers who demonstrate successful attacks against mobile services and browsers.

The second annual Mobile Pwn2Own contest will take place in Tokyo on Nov. 13-14, TippingPoint announced on its company blog today.

Last year's inaugural contest was held in Amsterdam in September, alongside the EUSecWest conference.

Altogether, TippingPoint's Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) -- along with its co-sponsors Google and BlackBerry -- will offer $300,000 in cash awards, with the top prize of $100,000 paid to the first researcher or team who hacks a phone's baseband processor, the silicon inside phones that connects them to carrier networks.

ZDI is one of the country's best-known bug bounty programs, regularly awarding cash rewards to security researchers for their work. TippingPoint uses the information collected from the researchers' reports to beef up its line of security appliances, protecting customers against as-yet-unpatched vulnerabilities. ZDI also hands off the information to vendors so that they can patch their software.

Other awards will be given for hacking a mobile browser ($40,000, but $50,000 for Chrome on Android running on a Nexus 4 or Samsung Galaxy SO); a mobile operating system ($40,000); a message service such as SMS ($70,000); or a short-distance linking technology, like Bluetooth or NFC ($50,000).

Contestants will be allowed to pick the device they try to exploit from a list that will include Apple's iPhone 5 and iPad Mini, Google's Nexus 4 smartphone and Nexus 7 tablet, Nokia's Lumia 1020, Microsoft's Surface RT tablet, and Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone.

As at the Pwn2Own contest held in March, researchers must hand over not only details of the vulnerabilities they leveraged, but also disclose the exploit techniques used to hack the device, service or operating system.

Last year's hacking winners at Mobile Pwn2Own included a team from MWR Labs, an arm of UK-based MWR InfoSecurity, that broke into a Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone via NFC to win $30,000, and a two-man team from Dutch firm Certified Secure that hacked a then-current iPhone 4S. Researchers Joost Pol and Daan Keupe split a $30,000 prize for their exploit of Apple's iOS.

A different team from MWR Labs took home $100,000 in March after exploiting multiple "zero-day" vulnerabilities in Chrome and Windows 7 at Pwn2Own.

TippingPoint has published the full set of rules for the Mobile Pwn2Own contest on its website.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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