Alisa Shevchenko

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Alisa Esage
Алиса Шевченко

Other namesAlisa Shevchenko
OccupationCybersecurity researcher
OrganizationZero Day Engineering

Alisa Esage (Russian: Алиса Шевченко), also known as Alisa Shevchenko, is a Russian hacker, recognized for working with companies to find vulnerabilities in their systems. A self-described "offensive security researcher," a 2014 profile in Forbes says of Shevchenko: "she was more drawn to hacking than programming."[2][3] After dropping out of school she worked as a malware analysis expert for Kaspersky Labs for five years. In 2009, she founded the company Esage Labs, later known as ZOR Security (the Russian acronym stands for Цифровое Оружие и Защита, "Digital Weapons and Defense.")

Shevchenko's company ZOR Security was placed on a list of US sanctioned entities after being accused of "helping Vladimir Putin bid to swing the [2016] election for Trump". Regarding White House accusations, Shevchenko stated on the record that authorities either misinterpreted facts or were deceived.[4] To this day, U.S. officials haven’t said why they believe Shevchenko worked with the GRU’s hackers, or what she allegedly gave them.[5]

In early 2021 Alisa Esage officially started[6] the Zero Day Engineering project, specialized on professional training, research intelligence, and consulting in the area of advanced computer security research.

Alisa Esage is a winner of multiple international advanced hacking competitions, including Pwn2Own.


In 2014 Alisa was the winner of the PHDays IV "Critical Infrastructure Attack" contest (alternative name: "Hack the Smart City"), successfully hacking a fake smart city and detecting several zero-day vulnerabilities in Indusoft Web Studio 7.1 by Schneider Electric.[7][8]

In 2014-2018 Alisa was credited for discovery of multiple zero-day security vulnerabilities in popular software products from tech giants such as Microsoft,[9] Firefox,[10] and Google.[11] Part of those vulnerabilities were responsively disclosed via the Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) security bounty program,[12] previously owned by U.S. tech giant HP, and credited under various pseudonyms.[13]

Alisa Esage has presented her research at multiple international security conferences: RECON, Positive Hack Days,[14] Zero Nights,[15] POC x Zer0con,[16] Chaos Communications Congress.[17] In 2020 she was scheduled to give a talk at OffensiveCon, which had to be canceled due to travel constraints.[18]

Her work has been featured in various professional security industry publications such as Virus Bulletin, Secure List, and Phrack Magazine.


On 8 April 2021 Alisa Esage made history as the first woman to win in the Pwn2Own, the iconic advanced hacking competition running since 2007.[19] As part of her competition entry at Pwn2Own Vancouver 2021 Alisa targeted Parallels Desktop for Mac version 16.1.3 with a zero day exploit developed by herself, and was able to successfully demonstrate a guest-to-host virtual machine escape with arbitrary code execution on MacOS, on a fully patched system.[20] The entry was declared a partial win by the contest due to the fact that the targeted software vendor knew internally about the zero day bug that was leveraged in Alisa's exploit.


The "partial win" naming of Alisa's Pwn2Own Vancouver 2021 exploit by the organizers raised a massive outrage in the global information security community, with many commenters on Twitter demanding that the rules of the competition be changed so that the attempt would be declared a complete win.[21] According to Pwn2Own rules of 2021,[22] a successful contest entry may be disqualified or downgraded in the competition charts if the targeted software vendor was internally aware of the respective vulnerability (while still unpatched) on the day of the contest. Alisa's participation attracted public attention to that point of the rules, with numerous reasonable arguments tweeted by prominent figures of the computer security community to support a change of rules.[23]

Alisa's status as the first woman in Pwn2Own history was also questioned, although to a lesser extent. While the competition livestream recording[24] is clear on that point, with the narrator saying at 05:08 "Alisa is our first ever female participant", and the Pwn2Own founder chiming in on Twitter,[25] the official contest tweet came with a side note: "the first female participating as an individual". Rumor has it that one of the former Pwn2Own participants who entered the contest as part of a male team has subsequently changed their gender identity post-factum of their contest appearance. Fact-wise, the public record of Pwn2Own in the official blog posts[26] and livestream recordings[27] holds no mentions of female participation prior to Alisa's 2021 entry.

Motivation and personality[edit]

Alisa quotes her father as being the main inspiration to her choice of occupation and career: "He taught me to solder when I was 5 years old, I think. So I started reading books about computers and programming in early school and taught myself to code in C++ and x86 assembly language as soon as I got a PC at age 15."[28]

On her participation in the Pwn2Own competition: "It’s an essential milestone in a professional hacker’s career, and a major goal personally. I am super hyped! And relieved"[29]

Publications and exploits[edit]

  • Esage, Alisa (6 May 2016). "Self-patching Microsoft XML with misalignments and factorials". Phrack Magazine. 69 (10).


  1. ^ Shevchenko, Alisa [@alisaesage] (19 May 2018). "С днём рождения, Алиса! Мы тебя любим. Самые лучшие пожелания ⭐️ Happy Birthday, Alisa! Best wishes, Love, may God bless. 🎂" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 19 May 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ Fox-Brewster, Thomas (30 December 2016). "Meet The Russian Hacker Claiming She's A Scapegoat In The U.S. Election Spy Storm". Forbes.
  3. ^ Седаков, Павел (11 December 2014). "Контракт со взломом: как хакер построила бизнес за счет банков и корпораций". Forbes Russia (in Russian).
  4. ^ "Young Russian denies she aided election hackers: 'I never work with douchebags'". The Guardian. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  5. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (4 August 2018). "This Hacker Party Is Ground Zero for Russia's Cyberspies". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  6. ^ Shevchenko, Alisa [@alisaesage] (3 February 2021). "So, this is my new personal business website: Zero Day Engineering – the project that will round up and carry on some two decades of my life and work. Still a bit rough, but it's time. More to come. /cc @zerodaytraining" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 3 February 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021 – via Twitter.
  7. ^ "Positive Hack Days: Smart City Hacked". Positive Hack Days. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Schneider Electric InduSoft Web Studio and InTouch Machine Edition 2014 Vulnerabilities (Update A) | CISA". Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  9. ^ "Microsoft XML Core Services CVE-2014-4118 Remote Code Execution Vulnerability". Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  10. ^ "1443891 - (CVE-2018-5178) Integer overflow in nsScriptableUnicodeConverter::ConvertFromByteArray can cause a heap buffer overflow". Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  11. ^ "825503 - chromium - An open-source project to help move the web forward. - Monorail". Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  12. ^ "ZDI-15-052". Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  13. ^ "Zero Day Initiative — VirtualBox 3D Acceleration: An accelerated attack surface". Zero Day Initiative. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  14. ^ "Positive Hack Days 2014, Alisa Esage: "My Journey Into 0-Day Binary Vulnerability Discovery in 2014"".
  15. ^ "Speakers. ZeroNights Conference". Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  16. ^ "Power of Community". (in Korean). Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  17. ^ Esage, Alisa, Advanced Hexagon Diag, retrieved 5 March 2021
  18. ^ offensivecon [@offensive_con] (13 February 2020). "Due to travel constraints the talk Nginx Njs Exploitation by @alisaesage has been withdrawn" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 13 February 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2021 – via Twitter.
  19. ^ "Windows, Ubuntu, Zoom, Safari, MS Exchange Hacked at Pwn2Own 2021". The Hacker News. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  20. ^ Shevchenko, Alisa [@alisaesage] (8 April 2021). "Explaining to non-specialists: it's a zero day Hypervisor VM Escape exploit on Mac, one of the first in the world, I think. Developed by me. Should also affect Parallels on Apple Silicone" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 8 April 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021 – via Twitter.
  21. ^ Shevchenko, Alisa [@alisaesage] (9 April 2021). "I am crying. It means nothing for me how exactly the ZDI names my successful exploit demonstration – I am not in this for cash or testing my luck in a lottery – but apparently it does for you Pwn2Own is an important community event. Let the people decide what is fair or not" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 11 June 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021 – via Twitter.
  22. ^ Retrieved 17 April 2021. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ Varghese, Sam. "iTWire - Anger as woman researcher walks away empty-handed from hacking contest". Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  24. ^ Pwn2Own 2021 - Day Three Live Stream, retrieved 17 April 2021
  25. ^ dragosr [@dragosr] (8 April 2021). "A big congratulations to @alisaesage for making the PWN2OWN winners no longer be an all boys club. Nicely done" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 8 April 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021 – via Twitter.
  26. ^ "pwn2own - Google Search". Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  27. ^ "Zero Day Initiative - YouTube". Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  28. ^ "A Conversation With Alisa Esage, a Russian Hacker Who Had Her Company Sanctioned After the 2016 Election". The Record by Recorded Future. 1 March 2021. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  29. ^ Shevchenko, Alisa [@alisaesage] (8 April 2021). "Official: I won Pwn2Own competition in the Virtualisation category. It's an essential milestone in a professional hacker's career, and a major goal personally. I am super hyped! And relieved Details of the exploit that I developed are now under embargo of responsible disclosure" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 17 April 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021 – via Twitter.

External links[edit]

Alisa Esage on Twitter