Posted by Robert Vamosi on July 18, 2016
On Monday the Tenth Annual The Pwnie Awards nominations were announced in 16 categories.
The awards, literally a spray-painted My Little Pony, are given out each year at the Black Hat USA conference will take place on Aug 3rd, 2016 in Las Vegas. The awards are “judged by a panel of respected security researchers – the closest to a jury of peers a hacker is likely to ever get.”
Perhaps the most anticipated category is Pwnie for Best Junk or Stunt Hack. To give a sense of how these nominations are written, here’s what they have on their site for this award.
Awarded to the researchers, their PR team, and participating
journalists for the best, most high-profile, and fear-inducing
public spectacle that resulted in the most panic-stricken phone
calls from our less-technical friends and family members. Bonus
points for it being a needlessly sophisticated attack against a
needlessly Internet-enabled “Thing.”
Credit: John McAfee
The reigning master of hacking and presidential campaign performance
artist of our time, John McAfee, broke the news of his hack to
Cybersecurity Ventures by phone that his team was able to
demonstrate that WhatsApp messages between two cooperating
researchers using compromised Android phones … could be
compromised. They breathlessly reported that:
Cybersecurity expert John McAfee and a team of four other
hackers, using their own servers located in a remote section
in the mountains of Colorado, were able to read an encrypted
While the fact that end-to-end cryptography could be
compromised at either end should not be news to many here, we all
should heed McAfee’s warning:
I have been warning the world for years that we are
teetering on the edge of an abyss, that our cyber security
paradigms no longer function, and that chaos will descend
if something is not done. The fundamental operating system
(Android), used by 90% of the world, and that should be the
first bulwark against malicious intrusion, is
flawed. Should I not bring this to the world’s attention
through a dramatic demonstration? Do I not owe it to the
Yes, John, yes you do.
Credit: Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek
They may not have been the first
but in our not-so-biased opinion, Charlie and Chris wore it
best. The car hacking papers from researchers at UCSD and UW
just lacked sufficient…
Andy Greenberg freaking out.
This high-profile demo caused Chrysler to
1.4M vehicles in order to address the vulnerabilities that
Charlie and Chris identified. More importantly, it
demonstrated to the entire industry how expensive not properly securing
smart vehicles’ systems could be and that proper software
security programs just might be a good idea.
Credit: Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger
If a hacked and out of control car on the freeway doesn’t
scare you into never leaving the house, maybe a hacked
precision-guided rifle will. Runa and Michael showed just how
this nightmare scenario could come true. When asked why they’d
hack a firearm, Runa replied:
“Because cars are boring.”
Tell that to Andy Greenberg.
Credit: John Hering, Jon Oberheide, Adam Laurie, et al
a particularly hand-wavey demo thusly:
At the beginning of this contrived little drama, Alfonsi is
using an iPhone. You know how everyone and everything these
days is telling you not to click links, download files or
install applications you don’t expect to receive? Well, he
told her to do exactly that — click, download, install his
app — with a text message he sent her. To do this in real
life, she’d receive warnings, and she’d have to disable the
security features on her iPhone. But in the next shot,
suddenly our reporter is being spied on by Hering though an
Android phone propped up on her desk.
So, let’s make sure that we got this straight:
Credit: Earlence Fernandes, Jaeyeon Jung, Atul Prakash
As long as you stay off the roads, you’ll be safe from hacked
cars. As long as you don’t go outside, you’ll be safe from
hacked sniper rifles. As long as you turn off your smart
phones, you’ll be safe from it being tracked and hacked
too. Just stay home, where you’ll be safe from all of that
insecure “smart” crap getting hacked… or not.
These researchers from University of Michigan demonstrated how
weaknesses in Samsung’s SmartThings and SmartApps could be
abused to plant backdoor door unlock codes, steal existing
door unlock codes, disable home vacation mode, and trigger a
fire alarm. All the attacker needs to do is trick their victim
into installing a fake app and steal an OAuth token from an
existing SmartApp. How to do that is left as an exercise for
the reader, but maybe John McAfee or John Hering would be
willing to help them out.
That’s just one category. The rest of the nominations in all the categories can be found here.
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