How China turned a prize-winning iPhone hack against the Uyghurs
By Patrick Howell O’Neill
06 May 2021
In March 2017, a group of hackers from China arrived in Vancouver with one goal: Find hidden weak spots inside the world’s most popular technologies.
Google’s Chrome browser, Microsoft’s Windows operating system, and Apple’s iPhones were all in the crosshairs. But no one was breaking the law. These were just some of the people taking part in Pwn2Own, one of the world’s most prestigious hacking competitions.
It was the 10th anniversary for Pwn2Own, a contest that draws elite hackers from around the globe with the lure of big cash prizes if they manage to exploit previously undiscovered software vulnerabilities, known as “zero-days.” Once a flaw is found, the details are handed over to the companies involved, giving them time to fix it. The hacker, meanwhile, walks away with a financial reward and eternal bragging rights.
For years, Chinese hackers were the most dominant forces at events like Pwn2Own, earning millions of dollars in prizes and establishing themselves among the elite. But in 2017, that all stopped.