Hackers awarded $267,000 at Pwn2Own 2018, was far less than in the past editions

Pierluigi Paganini March 17, 2018

At Pwn2Own 2018 the hackers received a total of $267,000, it was far less than in the past editions, but the quality of research was amazing.

The popular hacking competition Pwn2Own is concluded, let’s see how much hackers earned and which applications they have successfully pwned.

White hat hackers have earned a total of $267,000 at Pwn2Own 2018 competition for exploits targeting Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari, Oracle VirtualBox and Mozilla Firefox.

This year the popular competition organized by TrendMicro Zero Day Initiative was sponsored by Microsoft and sponsor VMware.

The overall prize pool announced by ZDI was $2 million, but only a total of $267,000 was awarded by the hackers.

The overall amount was less than in the past years, in 2017 white hackers earned $833,000, $460,000 in 2016) and $552,500 in 2015.

“Overall, we awarded $267,000 over the two-day contest while acquiring five Apple bugs, four Microsoft bugs, two Oracle bugs, and one Mozilla bug.” states the organization.

“While smaller than some of our previous competitions, the quality of research was still extraordinary and highlights the difficulty in producing fully-functioning exploit for modern browsers and systems.”

On the first day, hackers earned a total of $162,000 USD and 16 points towards Master of Pwn. The white hat hacker Richard Zhu, aka fluorescence, failed to hack Safari, but he successfully used an exploit chain against Edge earning $70,000.

The hacker Niklas Baumstark from the Phoenhex team was awarded with $27,000 for hacking VirtualBox and the expert Samuel Groß, aka saelo, of Phoenhex received $65,000 for hacking Safari.

“The first day of Pwn2Own 2018 has come to a close, and so far, we’ve awarded $162,000 USD and 16 points towards Master of Pwn. Today saw 2 successful attempts, 1 partial success, and 1 failure. In total, we purchased 3 Apple bugs, 2 Oracle bugs, and 3 Microsoft bugs.” states the official site of the competition.

PWN2OWN 2018

On the second day, the hackers earned a total of $105,000 USD and 11 more Master of Pwn points awarded.

Richard Zhu earned $50,000 for hacking Firefox with a Windows kernel EoP. He chained an out-of-bounds (OOB) write in the browser followed by an integer overflow in the Windows kernel.

Zhu was the star of the Pwn2Own 2018, he won the Master of Pwn award this year receiving a total of $120,000 and 65,000 ZDI reward points worth roughly $25,000.

“The day started with the return of Richard Zhu (fluorescence), this time targeting Mozilla Firefox with a Windows kernel EoP. He eschewed all drama today and successfully popped Mozilla Firefox on his first attempt.” states the post published on Day 2 of the Pwn2Own 2018.

“He used an out-of-bounds (OOB) write in the browser followed by an integer overflow in the Windows kernel to earn himself another $50,000 and 5 more Master of Pwn points. This brings his event total to $120,000 and a commanding lead for Master of Pwn.”


On the same day, white hackers Markus Gaasedelen (gaasedelen), Nick Burnett (itszn13), and Patrick Biernat of Ret2 Systems, Inc. targeted Apple Safari with a macOS kernel EoP.

At the fourth attempt, they successfully demonstrated their exploit but Pwn2Own rules state that the exploit must be demonstrated in a maximum of three attempts.

They were not awarded but Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) did purchase the vulnerabilities and disclosed them to Apple.

The last entry for the day saw a team from MWR labs, composed of Alex Plaskett (AlaxJPlaskett), Georgi Geshev (munmap), and Fabi Beterke (pwnfl4k3s), successfully targeting Apple Safari with a sandbox escape.

The same team earned $55,000 for a Safari sandbox escape obtaining a heap buffer underflow in the browser and an uninitialized stack variable in macOS.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – PWN2OWN 2018hacking)

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