Hacking Chrome? Google Bets $20,000 you can't

Google has donated $20,000 to a yearly hacking competition to be awarded to the first researcher able to crack its Chrome browser. The Mountain View, Calif. company's move marks the first time a browser developer has contributed money to the contest.

The Pwn2Own competition is in its fifth year and is held at the CanSecWest security conference. Participants are tasked with cracking a variety of other browsers too (Apple's Safari, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and Mozilla's Firefox) on computers supplied by the contest creators running Windows 7. Those that perform a successful crack win the computer it was done on as well as a $15,000 cash prize.

Cracking Chrome will be hard. The browser uses what is called a "sandbox," which isolates system processes. In order for a crack to be successful, first the sandbox must be cracked, and then the exploit code itself executed.

Google is offering a CR-48 netbook as a prize itself in addition to the cash award. The netbook would only be offered as a prize -- the exploit would need to be performed on the other computers offered.

"Kudos to the Google security team for taking the initiative to approach us on this; we're always in favor of rewarding security researchers for the work they too-often do for free," HP TippingPoint security research team manager Aaron Portnoy said. Portnoy's firm runs the Pwn2Own competition.

Another portion of the contest will include hacks to popular mobile OS platforms including BlackBerry OS, iOS, and Android. Like the browser competition, a $15,000 prize and the device itself would be awarded.

Registration for the contest is open until February 15. Instructions and more information can be found from HP TippingPoint's website.

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