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March 15, 2014

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Local geeks win big at hacking competition

THREE Shanghai software geeks have picked up two prizes at a popular hacking contest held in Canada.

Chen Liang, Wu Shi and Zhao Zeguang yesterday successfully hacked into the latest Mac OS and Windows operating systems during the two-day Pwn2Own hacking contest, which was held in Vancouver.

By cracking the Safari browser of the Mac OS X Mavericks 10.9.2 system in 15 seconds and Adobe Flash of Win8.1 in 20 seconds, they were the only group to successfully hack the two products in the contest.

The trio walked away US$140,000 richer for their effort — US$65,000 for hacking Apple Safari and US$75,000 for pwning Adobe Flash, the competition’s organizers said.

They have been the only participating team who successfully hacked into the Mac OS since 2011, said a man who works at Keen Cloud Tech, a company founded by Chen, Wu and others.

The man told Shanghai Daily yesterday part of the prize money will be donated to a Chinese charity for the families of the people missing on Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and the security guards who died earlier this month in a terrorist attack at the railway station in the southwestern Kunming City.

Though the team hacked the  targets within a minute, a great deal of preliminary work had been done beforehand by the Keen Cloud Tech staff, he said.

The three winners, all around 30 years old, are graduates of Shanghai universities.

Chen Liang, the team leader,   studied at both Jiao Tong and Fudan universities. He worked for Microsoft for many years before starting Keen Cloud Tech.

“Shanghai has long been on the forefront of research, education and assessment of information security,” said Wang Huaibin, deputy secretary-general of the Shanghai Information Security Trade Association.

The Keen Team, with different members, also successfully hacked into the iOS7.0.3 system for iPhones within 30 seconds at last year’s Mobile Pwn2Own contest in Tokyo. The contest was held only 21 days after Apple released the cellphone. It was the first time that a Chinese team had taken part in a Pwn2Own contest.

The contest is a feast for “white hat” hackers, who dig out flaws by breaking into the systems or platforms without harming anybody, unlike “black hat” hackers, who steal information or money and cause damage.


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