MacBook Air slain first in hacking competition: OS X not OS god

March 28, 2008

MacBook Air slain first in hacking competition: OS X not OS godAt this year’s PWN 2 OWN hacking contest, a MacBook Air was hacked before any Vista or Linux machines. The skilled hacker responsible for the victory walked away as this year’s champion with the hacked computer and $10,000. It seems Apple really does employ a reality distortion field over its customers, and if this isn’t evidence, we couldn’t say what is.

Before we proceed, we must address the reality distortion field. It’s the belief that your Mac is perfectly protected, that nothing beats an Apple product, and that other machines are pathetic. It’s the feeling of superiority you get when you see a Mac vs PC commercial (assuming you own a Mac), but yesterday, Charlie Miller neutralized Apple’s reality distortion field for everybody at CanSecWest’s PWN 2 OWN.

Contestants were offered a Sony Vaio, Fujitsu U810, and MacBook Air. At any point during the competition, if a hacker manages to hack into one of those machines (to read the contents of a specific file), he’s allowed to take it home. The first one to accomplish the task of hacking a machine is also rewarded the grand prize of $10,000. The contest occurs over a series of days, and with each day that passes, the rules are relaxed a little more, according to InfoWorld.

On the first day, contestants were only allowed to attack the machines over the network. The second day, Thursday, allowed hackers to command contest officials to do small speccific tasks, and this is when Miller soared. He asked officials to visit a specific site, giving him near instant control of the MacBook Air through a Safari exploit.

It’s likely the reason the Mac was hacked first is because it may have been the most sought after prize. After all, it is a free MacBook Air. Despite the machine’s allure, the Vaio and Fujitsu would make great second-place prizes, but the hackers were unable to breach Linux and Vista — yes, the remixed Windows XP mess that is known as Vista held its ground on the second day. Vista didn’t even budge as Shane Macauley, one of last year’s winners, spent a good chunk of Thurday trying to crack it.

The lesson here is that OS X was never that secure. It’s just different and less popular, but different and less popualr doesn’t mean better. It never was and never has been the impenetrable wall Steve Jobs would like us to believe it is. It’s just a different kind of wall that many hackers haven’t tried climbing yet. It’s OS X not OS god!

Note: This post was put together using a beautiful, silver, 20" iMac running Leopard.

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6 Responses to “MacBook Air slain first in hacking competition: OS X not OS god”

  1. Adam:

    thankyou for this report, I’m a pretty big fan of Apple and the OS X OS, however I’m also a professional in the Windows Network world and a realist. Maybe this info will encourage Apple to put more effort into making OS X and it’ associated applications stronger and more secue while balancing that fine line of user friendlyness.

    Note: this post was written on an iPhone while sitting in front of Wal-Mart.

  2. Jonathan:

    You mentioned he hacked into it using SAFARI. This is an application that runs on Mac, it is not OS/X.
    Since everyone I know on the mac uses Firefox, then they don’t even come close to having a problem.
    Safari has a few problems, for sure. In fact it was used to hack into the iPhone at one point – the iPhone version also had an exploit which could be triggered by visiting a specific web site (which contained a special graphic file which crashed Safari and allowed system code to be executed).

    Also, the best measure of a company’s security team is the response time from knowing a vulnerability exists to releasing a user-downloadable patch. If a company has holes yet very quickly (such as, within a week) releases a software update to plug the hole, that indicates good support. Holes will always exist in Operating systems and applications. The speed at which the issues are addressed is the important aspect of computing.

  3. RetroGen:

    And there we go defending a steaming pile of … But yeah, hole is a hole. I used mac long time cause of mi work, now I’ve changed back to windows, simply cause I like it more than mac. Mac ain’t that bad, but I hate it’s community, you’re more arrogant and elitist than I could ever dream being :)

  4. Arnaldo Capó:

    HMM?? Safari != OS X. Fix the story and the headline. If someone has to go to a website to get hacked, well that’s not a very efficient way of hacking. Again Safari exploit is not equal to Mac OS X is just a browser

  5. Paul:

    @ Arnaldo Capó
    You clearly dont quiet understand the concept of hacking, its very easy to get someone on a website, it could be set up to do so on pretty much any website, even google or something.

    This is not the only security fault in macs, OS X is pretty much rellying on them being the underdog and no one bothering to make viruses or hack them, if mac was as big as windows, it would have as many security problems.

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