Bug Bounty is a programme offered by companies and organisations to reward bug hunters (also known as ethical hackers) for finding vulnerabilities in their computer systems. These vulnerabilities can be exploited by malicious attackers to access confidential information, steal data, disrupt services, among other objectives. This programme allows companies to identify and fix these vulnerabilities before they are exploited by malicious attackers. In exchange for finding vulnerabilities, bug hunters receive a monetary reward and, in some cases, public recognition.
Bug Bounty programmes have become increasingly popular in recent years, partly due to the rise in cyberattacks and security breaches worldwide. These programmes allow companies to improve their cybersecurity by leveraging the collective intelligence and expertise of bug hunters from around the world.
These programmes can vary in scope and reward, from small companies offering modest rewards to large corporations offering six-figure rewards. Rewards can be in cash, gifts, or public recognition, depending on the company and the specific programme.
To participate in a Bug Bounty programme, bug hunters usually need to meet certain requirements, such as being registered on the Bug Bounty platform, having a minimum level of cybersecurity skills, and respecting the rules and policies established by the company. Bug hunters may also need to sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect the confidentiality of the company.
Once a vulnerability is discovered, the bug hunter must responsibly report it to the company, providing enough information for the company to verify the vulnerability and take steps to fix it. If the vulnerability is valid and resolved, the company typically pays the bug hunter the reward.
Bug Bounty programmes offer advantages for both companies and participants:
Advantages for companies:
Improves cybersecurity: It allows companies to identify and fix vulnerabilities before they are exploited by malicious attackers. Bug hunters find and report vulnerabilities to the company, enabling the company to address them before they are exploited. This improves the company’s cybersecurity and protects customer data.
Saves money: It allows companies to find vulnerabilities before they are exploited, which can save money on repairs, litigation, and financial losses.
Enhances company reputation: Companies that offer Bug Bounty programmes can gain a good reputation in the cybersecurity community. These programmes demonstrate that the company is committed to the security of its computer systems and is willing to work with the ethical hacking community to improve security.
Identifies vulnerabilities that would otherwise go unnoticed: Bug hunters can find vulnerabilities that cannot be detected with automated security tools. This is because bug hunters have a more creative approach and can explore areas that automated security tools cannot.
Compliance with regulations: Some security regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), require companies to report security breaches to authorities within a specific timeframe. Bug Bounty programmes help companies identify and fix these vulnerabilities before they become security breaches.
Advantages for participants:
Generate additional income: Bug hunters can earn money by participating in Bug Bounty programmes. By finding and reporting vulnerabilities, bug hunters can receive monetary rewards from companies. Some bug hunters have earned significant sums of money by finding important vulnerabilities in computer systems.
Skill development: Participants in these programmes can develop and improve their cybersecurity skills. By participating in these programmes, bug hunters learn new techniques and tools that can be useful in their professional careers.
Access to resources and tools: Companies often provide bug hunters with access to resources and tools that are not available to the general public. This can include penetration testing software, code analysis tools, and detailed technical documentation.
Recognition and prestige: Bug hunters who find and report important vulnerabilities can gain recognition and prestige in the cybersecurity community. Some companies even end up hiring these bug hunters.
Companies invite hackers to assess their systems through specific programmes, which establish the necessary requirements to obtain a reward. It is important to carefully read the programme policies to avoid making mistakes and to choose a programme that aligns with the skills and needs of each hacker. Common aspects to consider include the programme scope (assets that can be investigated), allowed vulnerabilities, rewards, and programme statistics. These aspects can vary depending on each programme, and each company can establish its own policies to enhance the hackers’ experience.
There are different types of programmes:
Public Programme: This programme is open to any user who wishes to investigate vulnerabilities.
Private Programme: Participation in this programme requires an invitation. These invitations are granted to hackers who have discovered vulnerabilities in other programmes within the same platform.
Additionally, platforms use gamification to motivate hackers, which means that for each vulnerability found, points are awarded that contribute to the ranking and a better reputation in the community. This way, hackers with a good reputation have more chances of receiving invitations to participate in private programmes, which often have fewer hackers investigating at the same time due to their exclusivity.
On the other hand, there are Vulnerability Disclosure Programmes (VDP) that do not offer financial compensation but provide swag or reputation points for the platform. These reputation points can be used to access private programmes. VDPs can also be public or private.
There are several Bug Bounty platforms available worldwide. Here are descriptions of some of the most popular Bug Bounty programmes:
HackerOne: It is a Bug Bounty platform that connects companies with ethical hackers. HackerOne offers a bug hunter marketplace, vulnerability management tools, and a support team. Currently, there are over 2,000 customers using the HackerOne platform.
Bugcrowd: It is a cybersecurity platform that focuses on detecting and resolving security vulnerabilities in applications and enterprise systems. The platform connects companies with a global community of bug hunters who are rewarded for finding and reporting security vulnerabilities in the companies’ applications and systems. Bugcrowd also provides tools and services to help companies manage and prioritise vulnerability reports and continuously improve their system security.
Synack: It is a cybersecurity platform that connects companies with selected bug hunters. Synack uses a “controlled hacking” methodology, where bug hunters are selected and evaluated before being admitted to the platform. Synack also offers vulnerability management tools and a support team.
Intigriti: It is a Bug Bounty platform based in Europe that focuses on ethics and transparency. Intigriti has a network of bug hunters, vulnerability management tools, and technical support. It offers different types of reward programmes, including public, private, and invitation-based programmes.
Cobalt: It is a Bug Bounty platform that utilises a “pen testing as a service” approach. Cobalt connects companies with a team of cybersecurity experts who perform penetration testing. Cobalt also offers a vulnerability management platform and a support team.
YesWeHack: It is a Bug Bounty platform based in France that offers different types of reward programmes, including public, private, and invitation-based programmes. YesWeHack also provides a network of bug hunters and a vulnerability management platform.
Zerocopter: It is an online platform that focuses on connecting companies with bug hunters to collaborate on identifying and resolving vulnerabilities in the companies’ security. The platform provides vulnerability management tools and a support team to help companies effectively handle bug reports. Additionally, Zerocopter offers different types of reward programmes for bug hunters, including public, private, and invitation-based programmes.
A Bug Bounty report is a document that describes the vulnerability found by a security researcher in a bug bounty programme. A detailed and well-written report can increase the chances of the vulnerability being accepted and rewarded. Here are some points to consider to make an effective Bug Bounty report:
Provide detailed information: In your report, you should provide detailed information about the vulnerability found. Include steps to reproduce the vulnerability, along with any evidence you may have gathered, such as screenshots or network logs.
Describe the impact: Describe the potential impact of the vulnerability, including the type of attack an attacker could carry out. If possible, provide examples of how the vulnerability could be exploited.
Classify the vulnerability: Classify the vulnerability according to its severity. Bug Bounty programmes often have their own classifications, so it is important to carefully read the programme rules and requirements to determine how the vulnerability should be classified.
Offer solutions: Provide solutions or recommendations to fix the vulnerability. If possible, provide specific code or instructions to address the vulnerability.
Be clear and concise: It is important for the report to be clear and concise. Avoid unnecessary technical jargon and make sure any technical terms you use are well-explained.
Use a standardised format: Use a standardized format for your report. This can include an introduction, vulnerability description, potential impact, classification, recommendations, and any evidence you have gathered.
Test the vulnerability: Make sure the vulnerability you are reporting is real and not a false positive. Test the vulnerability multiple times before writing the report and ensure that the vulnerability still exists.
Be professional: Treat the report as a professional document. Avoid using offensive or sarcastic language and refrain from making personal comments. Keep the focus on the vulnerability and its potential impact.
If you’re interested in the Bug Bounty world and want to start participating in vulnerability reward programmes, here are some tips to help you get started:
Learn basic skills: To start in Bug Bounty, it is necessary to have basic knowledge of computer security, programming, and networking. If you have no experience in this field, you can start by learning through online courses, books, or tutorials.
Get familiar with tools: To participate in Bug Bounty programmes, it’s important to be familiar with the tools used in this field. Some of the common tools include Burp Suite, Nmap, Metasploit, among others.
Search for Bug Bounty programmes: Once you have the basic skills and knowledge of tools, it’s time to search for Bug Bounty programmes you can participate in. You can start by looking for public programmes on different Bug Bounty platforms such as HackerOne or Bugcrowd.
Read the rules: Before participating in a Bug Bounty programme, it’s important to read the rules and requirements set for each programme. Each programme may have different rules and requirements, so it’s important to read carefully to avoid disqualification.
Search for vulnerabilities: Once you have found a Bug Bounty programme to participate in, it’s time to start searching for vulnerabilities in the system. Remember that not all vulnerabilities will be accepted by the programme, so it’s important to focus on those that are considered critical.
Report vulnerabilities: If you find a vulnerability, it’s important to report it following the programmes rules and requirements. Provide as much information as possible, including steps to reproduce the vulnerability.
Be patient: Participating in Bug Bounty can be a lengthy process and requires patience. You may not find a vulnerability on your first attempt, but don’t get discouraged. Keep searching and improving your skills.
Learn from your mistakes: If your vulnerability report is rejected, it’s important to learn from your mistakes and improve for the next attempt. Seek feedback and enhance your skills based on that feedback.
How much can I earn?
Bug Bounty has become a popular way to make money online in recent years.
In general, bug hunters can earn anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars for reporting vulnerabilities. The rewards are based on the severity of the vulnerability found and the quality of the submitted report. Some companies also offer additional benefits, such as public recognition, titles of “top bug hunters,” or even job opportunities within the company.
For example, some companies pay rewards ranging from $100 to $500 for finding low-severity vulnerabilities, while others may offer up to $100,000 or more for highly critical and complex vulnerabilities. However, most rewards fall within the range of $500 to $5,000, which can be very attractive for bug hunters looking to earn extra money.
It’s important to note that not all companies offer Bug Bounty programmes. However, some of the largest and most well-known companies, such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Airbnb, and PayPal, have Bug Bounty programmes that bug hunters can participate in.
Additionally, bug hunters don’t need to be experts in computer security to participate in Bug Bounty programmes. In fact, anyone with basic knowledge of computer security and research skills can participate and earn money through Bug Bounty.
Bug hunters can earn a significant amount of money by participating in these programmes, so if you have research skills and an interest in computer security, Bug Bounty can be a good option for earning extra money.