Pwn2Own: What OS really won?

Apple had a rough security week. Vista was hacked.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Apple had a rough security week. Vista was hacked. And Linux is unhackable. Those takeaways appear to be the consensus view following the Pwn2Own contest but it's not that simple.

Under the contest rules, organizers offered the Sony Vaio (Ubuntu 7.10), Fujitsu U810 (Vista Ultimate), and the MacBook (OS X 10.5.2) as prizes. Sure, the MacBook fell first at the Pwn2Own contest at CanSecWest last week. And yes, the MacBook was fully patched and still fell. But the odds were strong that the MacBook would have been the first to fall no matter what Apple did.


Glory. Taking down a MacBook gets the headlines. It's sexy. It's a blogger's dream. The more prominent Apple becomes the more hackers want to attack it. Simply put, security by obscurity isn't an option for Apple anymore. Why wouldn't hackers target the MacBook first? 

Based on that aforementioned theory MacBook's fate was sealed.

I reckon that Vista actually had a good week at the Pwn2Own contest. As Nate dutifully noted Vista was hacked, but the rules had to be tweaked and hackers used an Adobe flaw to take the Vista laptop. I'd count that as a moral victory for Microsoft. What's a hacking contest without a Vista hack?

And that brings me to the Ubuntu laptop. Linux made it out of Pwn2Own unscathed. Does that mean that Ubuntu is unhackable? Not quite. It just means that hackers didn't see the glory in taking down Ubuntu, which is a small sliver of the desktop OS market. Rest assured, if Pwn2Own ran another day Ubuntu would have stumbled too.

When you see Ubuntu hacked repeatedly you know the Linux OS has hit the big leagues. Vulnerabilities follow success.

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