"This year, we've teamed up with ZDI by working together on the Pwn2Own rules and by underwriting a portion of the winnings for all targets," said Evans about the new understanding between Google and HP TippingPoint. "The new rules are designed to enable a contest that significantly improves Internet security for everyone. At the same time, the best researchers in the industry get to showcase their skills and take home some generous rewards."
Both Pwn2Own and Pwnium will require winners to provide functional exploit code and details on all the vulnerabilities put into play.
Pwnium 3's $3.14 million cap is more than three times the $1 million Google said it would pay if necessary in 2012, and more than 50% above the $2 million it staked at a second challenge that took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last October.
But if past practice holds true again this year, Google won't write checks totaling anywhere near $3 million. At the first Pwnium of March 2012, the search giant paid out $120,000 to two researchers for exploiting Chrome; the Malaysian edition's single award was a $60,000 payoff to "Pinkie Pie," one of the two hackers who took home the same amount seven months earlier.
Chrome OS has never been a contest target before, although Pwn2Own offered a Chrome OS notebook as one of four laptop prizes in 2011.
Although Chrome OS continues to struggle to gain share -- metrics company Net Applications, one of the most-cited market scorekeepers, hasn't even bothered to measure the operating system's usage -- but several major computer makers have recently gotten behind the open-source operating system. Earlier this month, Lenovo joined Acer and Samsung when it introduced a $429 ThinkPad laptop that's scheduled to ship in February.
Acer's C7 "Chromebook" -- a term often applied to notebooks powered by Chrome OS -- costs just $199, while Samsung's line starts at $249.
Google has not yet posted the official rules for Pwnium 3, but they will probably appear on the Chromium Security page.