Bug Bounty Reports: A Comprehensive Guide

Bug Bounty Reports

Bug Bounty Reports: A Comprehensive Guide

Imagine hiring a home inspector to identify potential issues in your property.

The inspector spends an entire day examining the home and, at the end of the inspection, simply hands over a note saying, “Found some problems,” without any further details.

This vague communication leaves you clueless about where the problems are, how severe they are, and what steps you need to take to address them. The same principle applies to the world of cybersecurity with Bug Bounty Programs.

Ethical hackers play the role of digital ‘home inspectors’ with bug bounty programs, scrutinizing software systems for vulnerabilities. However, their job doesn’t end with merely discovering the bugs. They need to provide a detailed ‘inspection report’, or a bug bounty report, outlining the discovered bugs, explaining how they were found, the potential risks they pose, and how they could potentially be exploited or fixed.

The concept of bug bounty programs dates back to 1995 when Netscape first introduced it. Since then, technology titans like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have instituted their bug bounty programs, enhancing their product security and gaining valuable insights. The primary goal of these programs is to identify vulnerabilities before malicious hackers do. After all, it’s far better to have a friendly hacker unearth and report a vulnerability than to let it remain undetected and potentially be exploited by malicious actors.

The role of bug bounty reports in these programs is pivotal. A comprehensive, well-structured, and clear report is a treasure trove of information for organizations, enabling them to understand, reproduce, and rectify the bug. On the flip side, a poorly written report can lead to misunderstandings, needless back-and-forths, and even unfixed bugs due to a lack of adequate information.

In this article, we will get into the importance of bug bounty reports, guide you on how to write them effectively, share professional tips, offer practical bug bounty report templates, and explore future trends in bug bounty reporting. By the end of this guide, you should have a solid understanding of how to create a well-written bug bounty report and how to refine your report-writing skills.

The Importance of Bug Bounty Reports

Bug bounty reports play a major role in cybersecurity. They provide several key benefits:

  • Highlight potential vulnerabilities within a system
  • Offer insights on how these vulnerabilities could be exploited
  • Guide the security teams in formulating solutions
  • Foster clear and effective communication about identified bugs
  • Reflect the professionalism and diligence of ethical hackers

However, the true value of bug bounty reports lies in their ability to turn a potentially damaging weakness into an opportunity for strengthening the system’s defense.

The Role of Bug Bounty Reports in Cybersecurity

Bug bounty reports are integral to the functioning of any bug bounty program. They serve as a roadmap and guide security teams to the hidden flaws within their systems. Without these comprehensive reports, vulnerabilities could go unnoticed, lingering as silent threats with the potential to cause immense damage if exploited.

These reports do more than just identify the bugs – they educate teams on how these vulnerabilities could be exploited maliciously, offering a detailed perspective on the potential implications. In the fight against cyber threats, a proactive cyber defense plan is important to stay one step ahead of hackers. This makes bug bounty reports an invaluable resource.

The Value of Effective Communication in Bug Bounty Reports

The way a bug bounty report is written really matters. It needs to be clear and easy to understand. This helps people fix the bug quicker. Even those who don’t know a lot about tech should be able to get what the bug is and why it’s a problem.

The quality of a report also affects how much money the hacker gets. The better the report, the higher the payout could be. Companies look at how well the bug is explained and how much impact it has when deciding how much to pay.

Moreover, a good report can make a hacker look professional. This can help them earn respect in the bug bounty community and might open up new opportunities.

As we use digital tech more and more, writing good bug bounty reports becomes even more important. It’s not just about finding bugs, it’s about explaining them well. This can make a big difference in making the digital world safer.

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How to Write Effective Bug Bounty Reports

When it comes to bug bounty reports, clear and comprehensive documentation is key. Here’s how you can put together an effective report:

Detailed Steps of Bug Discovery Process

  1. What to Include About the Environment: Start by describing the environment where you discovered the bug. This can include details about the operating system, browser type and version, and specific settings or conditions that are relevant.
  2. Tools Used During Discovery: Discuss the tools you used to uncover the bug. Commonly used tools can include automated scanners like Burp Suite, manual testing tools like OWASP ZAP, and network protocol analyzers like Wireshark.
  3. Procedure for Discovering the Bug: Walk through the process of how you discovered the bug. Make this as detailed as possible to provide a clear understanding of how the bug was found.

How to Document Reproduction Steps

  1. Be as Clear as Possible: Clearly list the steps to reproduce the bug. Remember, the reader might not have as much technical knowledge as you do, so keep it simple and easy to understand.
  2. Provide Necessary Screenshots, Codes, or Command Lines: Include any screenshots, codes, or command lines that can help illustrate the bug and how to reproduce it. This visual and practical information can significantly aid in understanding and addressing the issue.
  3. Record Video Evidence When Applicable: Sometimes, text and images aren’t enough to effectively communicate a bug. In such cases, consider recording a video of the process. Tools like Loom can help capture a step-by-step walkthrough of the bug discovery and reproduction.

Documenting the Impact of the Bug

  1. Potential Risks and Exploitations: Describe the potential risks of the bug. This could include what a malicious actor might be able to do if they were to exploit this vulnerability.
  2. Implications on User Data and Privacy: Discuss any implications the bug might have on user data and privacy. This can help illustrate the severity of the issue.
  3. Financial and Business Implications: Consider the potential financial and business implications of the bug. This might involve potential downtime, loss of customer trust, or regulatory fines if the bug is not addressed. Highlighting these implications can help communicate the urgency of fixing the bug.

Professional Tips for Write-Ups That Get Read & Resolved

Writing an effective bug bounty report is more than just outlining technical information. It’s also about delivering that information in a way that is clear, professional, and actionable. Here are a few tips to take your reports to the next level:

Use Clear and Precise Language

Avoid using overly complex language in your report. Not everyone who reads it will have the same level of technical expertise as you. Your goal should be to make your report as accessible as possible. Try to describe the bug and its implications in plain and simple language. If you must use technical terms, explain them in a way that a non-technical person can understand.


Don’t forget to thoroughly proofread your report before submitting it. This can help catch errors and improve overall clarity. Tools like Grammarly can be a great help here. They can catch spelling and grammar mistakes, awkward phrasing, and even help with clarity and tone. Ensuring your report is free of errors makes it easier to read and shows your professionalism.

Be Respectful and Professional

Remember, your bug bounty report is a professional document. Treat it as such. Be respectful and courteous in your communication. Avoid using a confrontational tone, even if you feel frustrated. The way you present yourself in your report can impact how your findings are received and your reputation in the bug bounty community.

Add Value with Visual Aids

Consider using visual aids such as screenshots, diagrams, or videos to make your report more comprehensive and easier to understand. Visual aids can help to illustrate the bug and its impact more effectively than text alone.

Keep the Report Actionable

Always aim to make your report actionable. Clearly state what the problem is, why it’s a problem, and, if possible, suggest a solution. By providing actionable insights, you’re helping the reader to understand not just the bug, but also how to address it.

Understand the Reader’s Perspective

Consider the reader’s perspective when writing your report. They might be reading many reports in a day, so make yours stand out by being concise, well-structured, and easy to understand. Try to anticipate any questions or concerns they might have and address these in your report.

Examples of Bug Bounty Report Templates

By following the above tips, you can make sure your bug bounty reports are not only read, but also understood, appreciated, and resolved. But starting a report from scratch can be intimidating. It’s like staring at a blank canvas without knowing where to make the first stroke. To help with this, we’ve put together a few templates that you can use as a starting point:

Template 1: Basic Bug Bounty Report Template

  • Description: Found a vulnerability on www.example.com that allows an unauthorized user to access sensitive data. It appears that the profile pages do not have proper access controls in place.
  • Steps to Reproduce:
  • Impact and Potential Exploit: This vulnerability allows any logged-in user to access other users’ profiles just by changing the URL. It leads to unauthorized access to sensitive user information, which can lead to privacy breaches and loss of user trust.

Template 2: Detailed Bug Bounty Report Template

  • Executive Summary: Discovered an SQL injection vulnerability on the login page of www.example.com, potentially revealing user password hashes.
  • Detailed Description: The login form on www.example.com does not seem to sanitize user input properly, leaving it vulnerable to SQL injection attacks. An attacker could potentially access user password hashes or other sensitive data stored in the database.
  • Tools and Environment: The vulnerability was found using a MacBook Pro running macOS Big Sur Version 11.4, using the Google Chrome browser Version 92.0.4515.131. The SQLmap tool was used to identify the vulnerability.
  • Steps to Reproduce:
    • Navigate to www.example.com/login.
    • In the password field, enter ' OR '1'='1.
    • A database error message appears, indicating that the input is being processed as part of the SQL query.
  • Potential Risks and Impact: If exploited, an attacker could use this vulnerability to reveal the user password hashes stored in the database. This could lead to a significant data breach, causing substantial damage to the organization’s reputation and potential legal consequences.
  • Proposed Fixes: To mitigate this issue, it is recommended to implement proper input sanitization and parameterized queries or prepared statements to prevent SQL injection attacks.

Template 3: Bug Bounty Report Template for Critical Bugs

  • Brief Summary: Identified a Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the comment section of www.example.com.
  • Description of the Bug: User input in the comment section of the website does not seem to be sanitized, which allows for persistent XSS attacks.
  • Severity and Impact Evaluation: This vulnerability is of high severity due to the potential for an attacker to execute arbitrary JavaScript in other users’ browsers. This could lead to malicious actions such as stealing session cookies or delivering malware.
  • Steps to Reproduce with Screenshots/Video:
    • Navigate to any article page on www.example.com (e.g., www.example.com/article/123).
    • Scroll down to the comment section.
    • In the comment input field, enter <script>alert('XSS')</script>.
    • Submit the comment.
    • Upon page reload, an alert box with the text ‘XSS’ pops up, demonstrating the execution of the JavaScript code.
  • Possible Exploitations: An attacker could use this vulnerability to deliver malicious JavaScript code to users who view the comment. This code could be used to steal session cookies, manipulate webpage content, or deliver malware.
  • Suggested Mitigations: Sanitize all user input on the server-side before displaying it in the browser. Consider the use of HTTP security headers like Content Security Policy (CSP) to further mitigate the impact of potential XSS attacks.

Remember, these are simplified examples and your actual reports should contain more detailed information based on your findings and the context of the bug.

Future Trends in Bug Bounty Reporting

Like many other online-driven industries, cybersecurity is evolving at a rapid pace. This has led to new trends in bug bounty reporting. Two significant trends are the expanded role of artificial intelligence (AI) in bug discovery and reporting, and the increased focus on post-report analysis and activities.

The Role of AI and Automation in Bug Discovery and Reporting

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are transforming bug discovery and reporting. Machine learning algorithms can sift through vast amounts of data much quicker than humans, identifying patterns that might suggest a security vulnerability.

AI can also assist in generating initial bug bounty reports, streamlining the process, and allowing researchers to focus on more complex tasks. These AI-powered tools augment human skills, making the bug hunting process faster and more efficient.

Enhanced Review and Analysis of Reports, and Post-Report Activities

As the bug bounty field matures, there’s an increased focus on refining post-report activities. This includes a thorough analysis and review of reports, triage services, and feedback loops with bounty hunters.

Advanced tools should be developed to assist with these tasks, helping to assess the quality of reports and determine the deserved payouts more accurately. These enhancements not only provide a fair and transparent process for bug bounty hunters but also help organizations manage vulnerabilities more effectively.


Remember, a quality report is the cornerstone of successful bug bounty hunting—it not only helps organizations identify their vulnerabilities, decide on the fixes, and evaluate the impacts, but it also forms the basis for determining the payouts for discoveries.

The bug bounty hunting landscape changing with AI, automation, and improved post-report activities paving the way forward. As we navigate these uncharted waters, the need for clear, concise, and comprehensive bug bounty reports becomes even more necessary.

By mastering the art of writing effective reports, you can stand out in this competitive field, contribute to bolstering organizations’ cybersecurity defenses, and make the digital world a safer place.