The computer hacking community is gearing up for its own version of the annual Oscars, with two notorious hacktivist groups and industry heavyweight WikiLeaks among those vying for the top award.
Sony Corp and EMC Corp's RSA Security division will also be recognized at next week's award ceremony, for the dubious distinction of having fallen victim to hackers.
While the Pwnies may be tongue-in-cheek, 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, said Dino Dai Zovi, one of the organizers of the event.
He is one of several Pwnies judges who will pick the winners from a list of candidates nominated through the organization's website. (http://pwnies.com/nominations/)
Pwnies is pronounced like ponies and refers to the hacking slang term Pwned, which means owned or controlled by a hacker.
Winners will receive a Hasbro Inc My Little Pony figurine, painted gold, at a ceremony on August 3 during the Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas.
Hacktivists Lulz Security and Anonymous are among those nominated for Epic 0wnage -- delivering the most damaging, widely publicized, or hilarious hack of the past year.
Both groups are wanted by cyber police around the globe.
LulzSec is nominated for hacking everyone, according to the Pwnies website. Victims include Fox News, Nintendo, the NHS, the U.S. Senate and the CIA.
Anonymous was nominated for hacking into the email accounts of security firm HBGary Federal, then publishing the emails of its executives on the Web.
They are competing with the virus Stuxnet, which security experts say was designed to attack an nuclear enrichment facility in Iran.
The other nominee in the category is the team of WikiLeaks, for publishing thousands of secret U.S. government cables, and Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army soldier who allegedly stole the material from classified computers.
Should one of the secret hacker groups win the award, then organizers will invite a representative up to the podium to claim their pony, said Alex Sotirov, another organizer.
If somebody from LulzSec or Anonymous decides to show up and accept their Pwnie, we will give it to them, he said. But they will probably get arrested.
Sony is the sole nominee in the category Most Epic Fail, so it is guaranteed to win the award after falling victim to a series of high-profile hacks, which resulted in the theft of personal data on more than 100 million customers.
RSA Security is the highest-profile nominee in the category of Lamest Vendor Response.
It was criticized for its handling of an attack on its network that resulted in the theft of data related to its SecurID technology, which companies use to confirm the identity of network users.
Hackers used the information they stole from RSA to launch a subsequent attack on contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.
(Reporting by Jim Finkle; editing by Ros Krasny and Andre Grenon)