Pwnie Awards Nominees in 2011 Include Sony, Anonymous, LulzSec, WikiLeaks

The nominations for the 2011 Pwnie Awards at Black Hat recognizes Sony for its sheer incompetence at security, and Anonymous, LulzSec and WikiLeaks for cyber-mayhem.

Security professionals heading to Black Hat can look forward to the Pwnie Awards, the hacker version of the Academy Awards, this week.

The winners of the Pwnie Awards will be announced Aug. 3 at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. Instead of little Oscars, award recipients receive gold-painted My Little Pony statuettes, a nod to the fact that "Pwnies" is pronounced "ponies."

The hacking slang term "pwned" means "owned" or controlled by a hacker.

The Pwnies celebrate superior security skills and catastrophic security incompetence of security researchers and the community over the past year, according to the Pwnie Awards Website. The various categories recognize individuals, businesses, malware and its discoverers that have dominated security headlines from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011.

The awards represent a serious attempt to acknowledge the people and events that have made the biggest impact on the hacking community over the past year, Dino Dai Zovi, one of the organizers and judges, told Reuters.

Pwnies will be awarded in eight categories, including best server-side bug, most innovative research, lamest vendor response, best client-side bug, best privilege escalation bug, "Most Epic Fail" and "Most Epic 0wnage." The category "Best Song" features original songs written about security.

"What kind of awards ceremony does not have an award for best song?" the organizers asked.

A rap song written and performed by George "GeoHot" Hotz, the hacker who was sued by Sony for jailbreaking PlayStation 3 and distributing the tool, was nominated in this category.

"Yo it's geohot / And for those that don't know / I'm getting sued by Sony," the song begins. Other nominees include "Hacker Hacker" by Phenoelit, a track described as "a homage to the hacker scene," and "Help Yourself to My Flaws" by Stephano Di Paola, a song describing "the current state of web application security."

There were five nominees for the "Epic Fail" award: Sony, Sony, Sony, Sony and, again, Sony. Each of the nominations were for different reasons, including the lawsuit against Hotz, failing to adequately secure Sony Online Entertainment, shutting down PlayStation Network for two months after the breach, failing to secure other sites that allowed LulzSec to have some fun, and laying off multiple security staff shortly after the massive data breach.

The top award, "Most Epic 0wnage," will go to "hackers responsible for delivering the most damaging, widely publicized or hilarious 0wnage," according to the awards organizers. The nominees are Anonymous for hacking HBGary Federal, LulzSec for "hacking everyone," WikiLeaks for posting thousands of classified documents and Bradley Manning for carrying them out on fake Lady Gaga CDs, and Stuxnet for being the first malware to damage centrifuges used in nuclear power plants.

If Anonymous or LulzSec win the award, the organizers will invite a representative up to the podium to claim the Pwnies on their behalf, Alex Sotirov, another organizer, told Reuters. "If somebody from LulzSec or Anonymous decides to show up and accept their Pwnie, we will give it to them," Sotirov said, adding, "But they will probably get arrested."

Novell, RSA Security and Magix are nominated for the "Lamest Vendor Response" award. Novell mischaracterized a remotely exploitable stack overflow in the OpenSSH implementation on Novell NetWare as a denial-of-service attack. RSA was nominated because it assured customers there was nothing to worry about after unknown attackers stole information relating to the SecurID technology in March. It turned out that there was plenty to worry about as attackers used the information to create cloned tokens to breach defense contractor Lockheed Martin in May. When a researcher notified Magix of a vulnerability in its Music Maker 16 software, the vendor threatened to sue the researcher if he publicized the proof-of-concept exploit.

The best server-side, client-side and privilege escalation bugs award recognizes the researcher or team who initially discovered them. The nominees include the flaw in the DHCP client from ISC, the vulnerability exploited during the Pwn2Own competition at CanSecWest in March to compromise the BlackBerry, and various Windows kernel issues. The innovative research award goes to the "person who published the most interesting and innovative research in the form of a paper, presentation, tool or even a mailing list post," according to the Website.