Google patches 19 Chrome bugs week before Pwn2Own hacking contest

Pays out $14K in bounties to 9 researchers

Google on Monday patched 19 vulnerabilities in Chrome, paying nine researchers $14,000 in bug bounties for reporting the flaws.

As it did last year, Google beefed up the security of its browser a week before the kickoff of Pwn2Own, the annual hacking contest held at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The update to Chrome 9.0.597.107 fixed 16 flaws rated "high," the second-most-severe ranking in Google's threat system, and quashed three "medium" bugs.

None of the vulnerabilities were ranked "critical," the category essentially reserved for bugs that may let an attacker escape Chrome's anti-exploit "sandbox." Google patched two sandbox-escape bugs -- both pegged critical -- in Chrome this year.

The bugs patched Monday were in several components, including WebGL, the hardware accelerated 3D graphics API that debuted in early February with Chrome 9; SVG (scalable vector graphics) rendering and animation; and the browser's address bar.

Nearly a quarter of the vulnerabilities were identified as "stale pointer" bugs, a term used to describe flaws in an application's -- in this case, Chrome's -- memory allocation code.

As is its practice, Google locked its bug tracking database to bar outsiders from viewing the technical details of the just-patched vulnerabilities. The company blocks public access to flaws for weeks or even months to give users time to update.

Google paid out $14,000, the second-highest total this year, for the 15 vulnerabilities found and reported by outside security researchers. Nine different researchers received checks, with Martin Barbella taking home $3,000, Sergey Radchenko $2,500 and two others $2,000 each.

Google and Mozilla, which makes Firefox, are the only browser developers to pay bounties directly to bug researchers.

In hindsight, Monday's update should have been expected: In 2010, Google also patched Chrome the week before Pwn2Own.

2011's Pwn2Own begins March 9, when security researchers will vie for fame and cash by trying to take down not just Chrome, but also the current versions of Apple 's Safari 5, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 and Mozilla's Firefox 3.6.

Monday's patches could be particularly important this year, since Google has a special stake in Pwn2Own: It put up the $20,000 prize for hacking Chrome on the first of the contest's three days. (After that, if no one breaks the browser, the rules change and Google will fork over just $10,000, with Pwn2Own sponsor HP TippingPoint ponying up the other $10,000.)

At least one other browser builder will issue patches before Pwn2Own's first day of competition. Mozilla has scheduled a security update of Firefox 3.6 for later today.

The patched Chrome 9 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from Google's Web site. Users already running the browser will be updated automatically.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

Read more about browsers in Computerworld's Browsers Topic Center.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Cybercrime and HackingapplicationsGooglesecuritybrowserssoftwareMalware and Vulnerabilities

More about AppleGoogleHewlett-Packard AustraliaHPLinuxMicrosoftMozillaTippingPointTippingPointWest

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Gregg Keizer

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place