“We need Time to Investigate and Understand the Issue before we can Determine whether it does Qualify for the Bug Bounty. Our Priority in these cases is to Investigate the Issues and Work with the Security Team to develop Fixes First” - Mike Schroepfer
Imagine a situation where someone guarantees your safety and security. Wouldn’t it make you happy? It definitely will. Bug Bounty Hunters guarantee the same kind of happiness to organizations and other business enterprises, looking to safeguard their IoT (Internet of Things) devices, their computer systems as well as their overall cyber presence. So what is a Bug Bounty Program? What implications does the Bug Bounty Meaning have in store for the digitalized world? Let us answer these questions.
In this blog, we shall try to find out what is Bug Bounty. Besides investigating the Bug Bounty Meaning, we shall look at the question of what is Bug Bounty Hunting, what is a Bug Bounty Hunter, what is Recon in Bug Bounty as well as try and find out how to become a Bug Bounty Hunter.
What is Bug Bounty?
In this section, we shall try to understand what is a Bug Bounty Program.
A bug bounty is a monetary compensation/reward, awarded to bug bounty hunters/ethical hackers/penetration testers for detecting security weaknesses, vulnerability as well as bugs and reporting the same to the organization concerned. Bugs are generally in the form of security vulnerabilities and exploits; while they can also take the form of hardware flaws, process issues and so on. When bug bounty hunters are able to identify plausible security gaps by reporting valid bugs; the organization rewards them in the form of a fixed monetary compensation.
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As you seek to understand what is Bug Bounty, you should remember that the nature of the Bug Bounty program differs from organization to organization. While coming out with their applications for inviting bounty hunters, some organizations might declare ‘Open Season’ which implies that the ethical hacker can test for any potential vulnerability which pertains to the organization. On the other hand, some of them, happen to specify the web pages and applications which are permissible to be tested by the bug bounty hunters. Similarly, companies might specifically issue invites to specific hunters or else the program might be declared public wherein anyone can sign up and join.
What is Bug Bounty Hunting: What is a Bug Bounty Hunter
Bug Bounty Hunters are essentially highly skilled ethical hackers who are charged with the responsibility of detecting security loopholes and vulnerabilities. Their role is akin to that of middle men who stand as security walls between organizations and potential bugs and security flaws which might seriously hurt the interests of the organization.
Bug Bounty Meaning: Its Operation
In this section, we shall try to find out what is Bug Bounty Hunting in terms of the way in which it works.
Organizations which seek to introduce Bug Bounty Programs, are required to specify their budget and scope for the program. The scope of the program is important as it lays down in detail the way in which the tests have to be conducted as well as, specifies the systems which can be tested by the hacker. This is particularly important because it is important for organizations to ensure that the act of Bug Bounty Hunting does not hamper the day to day functioning of the organization.
Bounty programs entail rewards levels which is determined on the basis of severity of the bug or vulnerability detected. Consequently, the reward also increases as the perceived impact of the bug increases. When the hunter is able to detect a bug, he is required to fill in a disclosure report which provides details of the nature of the bug, its potential impact as well as severity level. They also include information which could help developers to replicate and validate the bug. The reports are essentially fetched through an independent third party program like HackerOne or Bugcrowd. When the bug is confirmed by the developer, the bounty is rewarded to the hunter.
Benefits of a Bug Bounty Program
The Bug Bounty Meaning is incomplete without understanding the nature of the program. A Bug Bounty Program is a lucrative win-win situation for the organization as well as the hacker. It provides organizations with the opportunity for mitigating potential cyber attacks and threats as well as provides them access to a large number of skilled ethical hackers. On the other hand, it is alluring for hackers as well. Besides, good monetary rewards, these programs also help hackers in building recognition. Bug Bounty programs can act as testimonies to your hands-on experience in identifying security issues and weaknesses. This can be immensely beneficial as your seek to push your career within the field of Ethical Hacking in particular and Cyber Security in general.
Besides this, some of the other advantages of a Bug Bounty Program, include:
Greater Preparedness with Vulnerability Detection
One of the greatest benefits of a Bug Bounty Program is that it provides organizations with the chance to detect vulnerabilities and system flaws, before they can be exploited by cyber criminals for harming the organizations. Bug Bounty Hunting offers organizations the higher probability of detecting weaknesses, before they can be used in attacks.
Economical and Cost Effective
Bug Bounty Programs can guarantee reduced cost for entrepreneurs. This is ensured in two ways. Firstly, these programs help in detecting potential bugs and vulnerabilities which could harm the system or be exploited by attackers; from beforehand. Such prior alertness help organizations in saving themselves from the huge expenditure which they might have had incurred, in case the attack would have taken place. Secondly, the nature of a Bug Bounty Program in itself is quite economical. This is because, organizations have to pay hunters only when they are able to detect a bug and when the same is verified by the developer. In case, the organization opts for such security testing through contractors, they have to pay much more as they have to pay by hour, whether or not they find anything.
What is Recon in Bug Bounty?
Recon stands for Reconnaissance and is an important part of Penetration Testing or Security Assessment. It involves the act of collecting as much detail as possible about the system to be tested. This information is crucial in terms of developing strategy for penetrating the system as well as in understanding the way in which potential flaws can be dealt with.
Recon is not simply the process of acquiring some loose basic information. At times, it can result in discovering such vital information that the hunter is able to launch the exploitation, straightaway. For instance, subdomain enumeration is one of the most important aspects of the Recon process. It helps in discovering more and more subdomains within the ambit of security assessment which in turn helps to widen the scope of the program that you are part of. Each subdomain will act as a potential target for detecting bugs and thus will increase your chances of walking out with a good bounty. However, such subdomain enumeration would not have been possible without Reconnaissance.
What is Bug Bounty Market Landscape?
In this section, we shall try to look at what is a Bug Bounty market like. We shall look at some instances of Bug Bounty Programs initiated by some of the most well known companies.
- Snapchat: The payout for the Bug Bounty Program ranges between $2000-$15000
- Intel: The payout for the Bug Bounty Program ranges between $500-$30000
- Apple: The higher limit of payout that one can expect as a Bug Bounty Hunter at Apple can be $200,000
- Yahoo: The higher limit of payout that one can expect as a Bug Bounty Hunter at Yahoo can be $15,000
- Google: The payout for the Bug Bounty Program ranges between $300-$31,000
- Dropbox: The payout for the Bug Bounty Program ranges between $12,000-$32,000
- Mozilla: The payout for the Bug Bounty Program ranges between $500-$5,000
- Apache: The payout for the Bug Bounty Program ranges between $500-$3,000
- Microsoft: The payout for the Bug Bounty Program ranges between $15,000-$250,000
Bug Bounty for Beginners
In this section, we shall try and answer the question of how to become a Bug Bounty Hunter. We shall highlight a rough series of steps which you can abide by if you seek to be a part of a successful Bug Bounty Program.
Knowledge of Computer Networking
A basic understanding of the fundamentals of inter-networking, OSI stack, MAC addresses, IP addresses and so on; can definitely be an advantage as you seek to initiate upon the path of Bug Bounty.
Understanding of Web Programming Languages and Web Protocols
You may not be an expert in these programming languages, but at least a basic to intermediate level of knowledge is a must. Similarly, you should acquire knowledge of protocols like TLS, FTP, HTTP and so on.
Widening your Knowledge of Hacking Techniques and other Web Application Security Measures
As a budding Bug Bounty Hunter, it will be imperative for you to acquire understanding of security practices, common security mechanisms, common vulnerabilities in web applications, strategies to detect weaknesses, as well as ways and means for patching these flaws.
Sharpen your Skills
It is highly advisable that an aspiring Bug Bounty Hunter should continuously polish and brush up their security assessment skills. One way of doing this is to apply your knowledge in testing different targets of different difficulty level which will help you in acquiring an understanding of the diverse challenges which you might face. Consequently, you shall not only be in a better position in terms of dealing with different challenges; but also your prior hands-on experience of testing different applications shall put you in a better position as compared to other hunters in finding critical bugs.
Opt for Real Targets
Given the rising trend of Bug Bounty Programs, there are a number of Companies which run such programs for their web assets. Some of the well known names are: Starbucks, Twitter, Spotify, Google and so on. Once you are over with your preliminary preparation, you can certainly try your luck in Bug Bounty Hunting in these actual websites.
Thus, if you too happen to be someone who is desirous of making your way into the Bug Bounty field; you can certainly take clue from this rough roadmap of the Program of Bug Bounty for Beginners.
By the end of this blog, I am pretty sure that you must have acquired a fair idea of what is Bug Bounty. We have looked at what is Bug Bounty Hunting, what is recon in Bug Bounty as well as how to become a Bug Bounty Hunter. The Bug Bounty Meaning is indeed quite expansive and touches upon the vast domain of Ethical Hacking. Moreover, given the increasing sophistication of Cyber crimes and attacks, defensive strategies involving measures to abate the same from beforehand, has become a necessity.