Google offering hackers nearly $3 million to exploit Chrome OS

Women work at laptops in front of a Google logo at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany.
(Torsten Silz / Associated Press)

Not one to take security lightly, Google has announced it will pay hackers a combined total of nearly $3 million to find exploits in its Chrome OS computer software.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant said it will hold a contest called “Pwnium” in March, in which hackers can put their skills to the test by trying to hack into either the HP Chromebook 11 or the Acer C720 Chromebook.

The company said it will pay out prizes of $110,000 and $150,000. In total, it will pay $2.71828 million, which is a reference to the mathematical constant e, a concept that’s important to know when writing algorithms.

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To earn the $110,000 payouts, hackers will have to compromise Chrome OS through a Web page. For the $150,000 prize, hackers will have to compromise the computers so thoroughly through a Web page that the machine is still under their control even after it has been rebooted.

Google said it will also pay bonus prizes for clever hacks.

Pwnium is to be held at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver, Canada. To register for the contest, hackers can email Google at The deadline to register is 5 p.m. PST on March 10.

Google has held such contests before as a way to entice hackers to find security holes and present them to the company upfront, rather than disturb users and the company by performing their hack at a random time.

Perhaps Snapchat should take a page from Google’s playbook and work with hackers this way. After ignoring advice from security experts, it recently fell victim to a large security breach that exposed the information of millions of users.


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