A bug bounty program is a deal offered by many websites, organizations, and software developers by which individuals can receive recognition and compensation[1][2] for reporting bugs, especially those pertaining to security exploits and vulnerabilities.[3]

These programs allow the developers to discover and resolve bugs before the general public is aware of them, preventing incidents of widespread abuse and data breaches. Bug bounty programs have been implemented by a large number of organizations, including Mozilla,[4][5] Facebook,[6] Yahoo!,[7] Google,[8] Reddit,[9] Square,[10] Microsoft,[11][12] and the Internet bug bounty.[13]

Companies outside the technology industry, including traditionally conservative organizations like the United States Department of Defense, have started using bug bounty programs.[14] The Pentagon's use of bug bounty programs is part of a posture shift that has seen several US Government Agencies reverse course from threatening white hat hackers with legal recourse to inviting them to participate as part of a comprehensive vulnerability disclosure framework or policy.[15]

History edit

Hunter and Ready initiated the first known bug bounty program in 1981 for their Versatile Real-Time Executive operating system. Anyone who found and reported a bug would receive a Volkswagen Beetle (a.k.a. Bug) in return.[16]

On October 10, 1995, Netscape Communications Corporation launched a "Bugs Bounty" program for the beta version of its Netscape Navigator 2.0 browser.[17][18][19]

Vulnerability Disclosure Policy controversy edit

In August 2013, a Palestinian computer science student reported a vulnerability that allowed anyone to post a video on an arbitrary Facebook account. According to the email communication between the student and Facebook, he attempted to report the vulnerability using Facebook's bug bounty program but the student was misunderstood by Facebook's engineers. Later he exploited the vulnerability using the Facebook profile of Mark Zuckerberg, resulting in Facebook refusing to pay him a bounty.[20]

A Facebook "White Hat" debit card, which was given to researchers who reported security bugs

Facebook started paying researchers who find and report security bugs by issuing them custom branded "White Hat" debit cards that can be reloaded with funds each time the researchers discover new flaws. "Researchers who find bugs and security improvements are rare, and we value them and have to find ways to reward them", Ryan McGeehan, former manager of Facebook's security response team, told CNET in an interview. "Having this exclusive black card is another way to recognize them. They can show up at a conference and show this card and say 'I did special work for Facebook.'"[21] In 2014, Facebook stopped issuing debit cards to researchers.

In 2016, Uber experienced a security incident when an individual accessed the personal information of 57 million Uber users worldwide. The individual supposedly demanded a ransom of $100,000 in order to destroy rather than publish the data. In Congressional testimony, Uber CISO indicated that the company verified that the data had been destroyed before paying the $100,000.[22] Mr. Flynn expressed regret that Uber did not disclose the incident in 2016. As part of their response to this incident, Uber worked with partner HackerOne to update their bug bounty program policies to, among other things, more thoroughly explain good faith vulnerability research and disclosure.[23]

Yahoo! was severely criticized for sending out Yahoo! T-shirts as reward to the Security Researchers for finding and reporting security vulnerabilities in Yahoo!, sparking what came to be called T-shirt-gate.[24] High-Tech Bridge, a Geneva, Switzerland-based security testing company issued a press release saying Yahoo! offered $12.50 in credit per vulnerability, which could be used toward Yahoo-branded items such as T-shirts, cups and pens from its store. Ramses Martinez, director of Yahoo's security team claimed later in a blog post[25] that he was behind the voucher reward program, and that he basically had been paying for them out of his own pocket. Eventually, Yahoo! launched its new bug bounty program on October 31 of the same year, that allows security researchers to submit bugs and receive rewards between $250 and $15,000, depending on the severity of the bug discovered.[26]

Similarly, when Ecava released the first known bug bounty program for ICS in 2013,[27][28] they were criticized for offering store credits instead of cash which does not incentivize security researchers.[29] Ecava explained that the program was intended to be initially restrictive and focused on the human safety perspective for the users of IntegraXor SCADA, their ICS software.[27][28]

Some bug bounties programs have been criticized as tools to prevent security researcher from publicly disclosing vulnerabilities, by conditioning the participation to bug bounty programs, or even the granting of safe-harbor, to abusive non-disclosure agreements.[30][31]

Geography edit

Though submissions for bug bounties come from many countries, a handful of countries tend to submit more bugs and receive more bounties. The United States and India are the top countries from which researchers submit bugs.[32] India, which has either the first or second largest number of bug hunters in the world, depending on which report one cites,[33] topped the Facebook Bug Bounty Program with the largest number of valid bugs.[34] In 2017, India had the highest number of valid submissions to Facebook's Whitehat program, followed by the United States and Trinidad and Tobago.[34]

Notable programs edit

In October 2013, Google announced a major change to its Vulnerability Reward Program. Previously, it had been a bug bounty program covering many Google products. With the shift, however, the program was broadened to include a selection of high-risk free software applications and libraries, primarily those designed for networking or for low-level operating system functionality. Submissions that Google found adherent to the guidelines would be eligible for rewards ranging from $500 to $3,133.70.[35][36] In 2017, Google expanded their program to cover vulnerabilities found in applications developed by third parties and made available through the Google Play Store.[37] Google's Vulnerability Rewards Program now includes vulnerabilities found in Google, Google Cloud, Android, and Chrome products, and rewards up to $31,337.[38]

Microsoft and Facebook partnered in November 2013 to sponsor The Internet Bug Bounty, a program to offer rewards for reporting hacks and exploits for a broad range of Internet-related software.[39] In 2017, GitHub and The Ford Foundation sponsored the initiative, which is managed by volunteers including from Uber, Microsoft,[40] Adobe, HackerOne, GitHub, NCC Group, and Signal Sciences.[41] The software covered by the IBB includes Adobe Flash, Python, Ruby, PHP, Django, Ruby on Rails, Perl, OpenSSL, Nginx, Apache HTTP Server, and Phabricator. In addition, the program offered rewards for broader exploits affecting widely used operating systems and web browsers, as well as the Internet as a whole.[42]

In March 2016, Peter Cook announced the US federal government's first bug bounty program, the "Hack the Pentagon" program.[43] The program ran from April 18 to May 12 and over 1,400 people submitted 138 unique valid reports through HackerOne. In total, the US Department of Defense paid out $71,200.[44]

In 2019, The European Commission announced the EU-FOSSA 2 bug bounty initiative for popular open source projects, including Drupal, Apache Tomcat, VLC, 7-zip and KeePass. The project was co-facilitated by European bug bounty platform Intigriti and HackerOne and resulted in a total of 195 unique and valid vulnerabilities.[45]

Open Bug Bounty is a crowd security bug bounty program established in 2014 that allows individuals to post website and web application security vulnerabilities in the hope of a reward from affected website operators.[46]

See also edit

References edit

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  2. ^ Ding, Aaron Yi; De Jesus, Gianluca Limon; Janssen, Marijn (2019). "Ethical hacking for boosting IoT vulnerability management". Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Telecommunications and Remote Sensing. Ictrs '19. Rhodes, Greece: ACM Press. pp. 49–55. arXiv:1909.11166. doi:10.1145/3357767.3357774. ISBN 978-1-4503-7669-3. S2CID 202676146.
  3. ^ Weulen Kranenbarg, Marleen; Holt, Thomas J.; van der Ham, Jeroen (November 19, 2018). "Don't shoot the messenger! A criminological and computer science perspective on coordinated vulnerability disclosure". Crime Science. 7 (1): 16. doi:10.1186/s40163-018-0090-8. ISSN 2193-7680. S2CID 54080134.
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  26. ^ Martinez, Ramses. "The Bug Bounty Program is Now Live". Yahoo Developer Network. Retrieved October 31, 2013.
  27. ^ a b Toecker, Michael (July 23, 2013). "More on IntegraXor's Bug Bounty Program". Digital Bond. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  28. ^ a b Ragan, Steve (July 18, 2013). "SCADA vendor faces public backlash over bug bounty program". CSO. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
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  40. ^ Abdulridha, Alaa (March 18, 2021). "How I hacked Facebook: Part Two". infosecwriteups. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
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