Inside Pwn2Own's High-Stakes Industrial Hacking Contest


Inside the World’s Highest-Stakes Industrial Hacking Contest

At Pwn2Own, hackers had no trouble dismantling systems that help run everything from car washes to nuclear plants—with the prize of taking home the very computers they “pwn.”

On a small, blue-lit stage in a dim side room of the Fillmore Theater in Miami on Tuesday, three men sat behind laptops in front of a small crowd. Two of them nervously reviewed the commands on a screen in front of them. Steven Seeley and Chris Anastasio, a hacker duo calling themselves Team Incite, were about to attempt to take over the Dell laptop sitting a few inches away by targeting a very particular piece of software it was running: A so-called human-machine interface, sold by the industrial control systems company Rockwell Automation.

Rockwell HMIs appear in industrial facilities around the world, used for manipulating the physical equipment in everything from car washes to nuclear plants. In other words, a hacker can do very dangerous things if they manage to hijack one.





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