Bug bounty programs have gained popularity due to their advantages. They allow companies to harness the collective knowledge of security experts, increasing the chances of identifying vulnerabilities before malicious actors exploit them. Companies benefit from cost-effective security testing, as they only pay for valid vulnerabilities rather than maintaining a full-time security team. Moreover, bug bounty programs foster positive relationships between companies and the security community, promoting collaboration and a proactive approach to cybersecurity.

So what is a bug bounty program? Read on to find out.

What Is a Bug Bounty Program?

A bug bounty program is a security measure implemented by companies to engage independent security researchers and ethical hackers in identifying and reporting security vulnerabilities. In exchange for their services, these programs offer compensation, usually in the form of monetary rewards. Bug bounty programs supplement companies’ vulnerability management strategies, which include penetration tests and other security tests.

These programs enable companies to leverage the specialised skills and expertise of a diverse community of security experts. Researchers employ tailored tools and techniques to detect bugs according to the company’s requirements. When a vulnerability is found, the researcher submits a detailed report to the company, which verifies and assesses its severity. Valid vulnerabilities may earn bug bounty hunters a monetary reward based on the vulnerability’s impact in areas like:

  • Security exploits
  • Critical vulnerabilities
  • Process issues
  • Hardware flaws

Remember, multiple bug bounty programs are open to the public for application. However, some programs are on an invite-only basis. After all, confidentiality restraints might mean the company selects specific bug hunters for the job.

Top Bug Bounty Platforms

Here are some top bug bounty programs that are publicly available to anyone. You can always apply through their websites.

1) Microsoft

The Microsoft bug bounty program encourages researchers, like software developers, to identify and report vulnerabilities and advanced persistent threats within their systems. While the program is open to the public, the company only deals with online services, and only qualified researchers get the position.

  • Pros: High cash rewards.
  • Cons: The bounty reward is only given to important vulnerabilities.
  • Amount payable: The rewards range from $15,000-$250,000.

2) Google

Google’s vulnerability rewards program spans a large scope of content, including Youtube and Blogger. Additionally, the program mainly covers design and implementation vulnerabilities. Any security researcher can apply for the position to find bugs and report them.

  • Pros: There are three tiers to choose from to determine other security threats that can be exploited chains later.
  • Cons: The program only covers design and implementation vulnerabilities.
  • Amount payable: At a minimum, Google pays $300 for threat detection. However, they also pay up to $31,337 for full and detailed exploit chains.

3) Apple

The Apple bug bounty platform is specifically designed to ensure that bug bounty hunters receive recognition for detecting valid vulnerabilities for later protection practices. Payment for vulnerability disclosure is based on the type of issue and the execution achieved. Therefore, if your vulnerability submissions are eligible, you get a reward.

  • Pros: The program is designed to help secure the privacy of users.
  • Cons: Unfixed backlog of bugs.
  • Amount payable: No limited amount. It all depends on how you discover and report bugs.

4) Yahoo

The Yahoo bug bounty program offers competitive rewards for a wide array of vulnerabilities if security researchers discover and submit bug reports. At Yahoo’s sole discretion, qualifying bugs are usually rewarded according to severity. Yahoo also encourages the hacker community to find bugs.

  • Pros: The program rewards a wide range of vulnerabilities.
  • Cons: It doesn’t pay for bugs on other Yahoo platforms like WordPress or Yahoo.net.
  • Amount payable: $15,000 for reporting bugs found within their system.

5) Meta

Meta is one of the largest companies globally. So it makes sense that they offer bug bounties for vulnerability disclosure with their software and firmware. Additionally, under Meta, finding bugs extends to the Metaverse and includes Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

  • Pros: There are multiple tiers you can try to find bugs.
  • Cons: They don’t have many security issues.
  • Amount payable: Fixed amount of $500.

Benefits of Bug Bounty Programs

a) Access to a Wide Group of Talent

Having access to a wide group of multi-talented bug hunters is impossible to have in-house, simply due to the sheer number of bug hunters you can find online. Additionally, a bug bounty programme is a great way to reduce expenses since it would cost a company more money to use in-house talent.

Furthermore, an organisation can easily and effectively perform penetration and vulnerability tests with outside talent that would otherwise take longer with in-house employees. With any bug bounty platform, there is endless talent and skill to leverage.

b) Realistic Threat Mock-ups

Conducting penetration and vulnerability tests in-house can be expensive for a company since it will have to hire highly-skilled professionals. With a bug bounty program, the company pays bug hunters with various skills like patch management and hacking to act like cybercriminals.

The company can hire as many bug hunters as they want and still save money in the long run. Additionally, the bug hunters try to hack into their systems and simulate what a hacker would do in the process.

c) Vulnerability Protection

Not all organisations have a hack-proof system. Therefore, bug hunting can reveal possible weak links within the system that can then be fixed. This prevents any future hackers from exploiting the weak areas and causing any damage. With bug hunting, there is a significant possibility that most bugs will be found and eliminated.

The Bottom Line

Bug bounty programs have become integral to companies’ security strategies, allowing them to tap into the expertise of independent security researchers and ethical hackers. These programs create a collaborative environment where vulnerabilities can be identified and reported, improving security structures. By leveraging the skills of a diverse community of experts, bug bounty programs contribute to strengthening cybersecurity practices and ensuring the protection of digital ecosystems.

Featured Image by creativeart on Freepik

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