Hacker breaks into Mac at security conference

A hacker broke into a Mac machine, winning a $10,000 prize, as part of a contest started at the CanSecWest conference.

A hacker managed to break into a Mac and win a US$10,000 prize as part of a contest started at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver.

The conference organizer decided to offer the contest in part to draw attention to possible security shortcomings in Macs. "You see a lot of people running OS X saying it's so secure and frankly Microsoft is putting more work into security than Apple has," said Dragos Ruiu, the organizer of security conferences including CanSecWest

The contest originally was open just to conference attendees, who were invited to try to break into the machines through a wireless access point. But on Thursday evening, 3Com Corp.'s TippingPoint division put up the cash prize and put the machines online so that anyone could participate.

The winner has not yet been named but is not someone attending the conference in Vancouver.

The contest was a chance for hackers to demonstrate techniques they may have boasted about. "I hear a lot of people bragging about how easy it is to break into Macs," Ruiu said.

Some attendees didn't think it was a coincidence that on late Thursday Apple released a patch for 25 vulnerabilities in OS X.

Macs haven't been targets for hackers and malicious code writers nearly to the degree that Windows machines have historically. That's in part because there are fewer Macs in use, thus making the potential impact of malicious code smaller than on the more widely used PCs.

Also, Apple is "extremely litigious when people do find stuff," noted Theo de Raadt, OpenBSD project leader and an attendee at the conference. He suspects that will backfire on Apple, which could begin to "look evil" if hackers begin to publish potentially threatening letters from the company.

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