What is a Bug Bounty Program?

what is a bug bounty program

What is a Bug Bounty Program?

When you think of bounty hunters, you likely think of Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wild adventures. Or perhaps you think of Boba Fett from Star Wars.

But did you know that bounty hunting is actually a real and thriving profession that happens every day online? But instead of tracking down people, companies want help finding bugs. And they’re willing to pay a lot of money for it. In fact, in 2021 Microsoft awarded $13.6M in bug bounties to more than 340 security researchers across 58 countries.

In this article, we’ll discuss what a bug bounty program is exactly. We’ll also share how it works and some of the reasons why companies are establishing these financially motivated programs.

What is a Bug Bounty?

A bug bounty is a reward offered to ethical hackers for finding and disclosing security vulnerabilities in a company’s online presence. These rewards can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars and are a cost-effective way for businesses to improve their security and protect their customers’ data.

What Is Bug Bounty Program?

A bug bounty program is an incentive-based approach to finding and fixing software bugs. These programs allow ethical hackers to locate functionality flaws and security vulnerabilities in a company’s website and online applications. Once a vulnerability has been identified, it’s disclosed through a safe and secure channel, so the company can take proper action to patch it up.

Many well-known companies, such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, have established bug bounty programs to encourage ethical hackers in finding and reporting bugs to them. It’s a win-win situation for both parties: the company gets proactive reports on vulnerabilities so they can address them, and the ethical hacker receives recognition and compensation for their work.

How Does a Bug Bounty Program Work?

Companies typically announce bug bounty programs through their website or a public platform such as Bugcrowd or HackerOne. These platforms allow ethical hackers to search for and participate in different bounty programs.

Once a vulnerability has been found, the ethical hacker will provide information on how it can be reproduced to the company. The company will then verify the vulnerability and reward the ethical hacker with a pre-determined bounty amount.

Some companies may have a program in place without using a hosted bug bounty platform. In these cases, ethical hackers may need to directly contact the company to report their findings and receive a reward.

Bug bounty programs often have specific guidelines for participating ethical hackers to follow, such as not accessing private data or using malicious techniques to find vulnerabilities.

It’s critical to follow these guidelines and disclose vulnerabilities responsibly, as any malicious activity can result in legal consequences.

What are the Advantages of a Bug Bounty Program?

Bug bounty programs offer a number of advantages over traditional testing methods. In summary, these programs are:

  1. Cost-effective: Hiring a team of in-house security testers can be expensive, but bug bounty programs offer a cost-effective solution by incentivizing external ethical hackers to do the work.
  2. Efficient: These programs allow for a larger pool of potential testers, increasing the likelihood of finding and fixing vulnerabilities in a timely manner.
  3. Improved security: By offering external ethical hackers a financial reward, companies can improve their security and protect their customers’ data.
  4. Enhanced reputation: A successful bug bounty program can also enhance a company’s reputation for valuing security and transparency.
  5. Increased diversity: Bug bounty programs often attract a diverse group of ethical hackers, providing fresh perspectives and ideas in the security testing process.

Overall, companies can greatly benefit from implementing a bug bounty program as part of their overall security strategy. They are a great way to identify and fix security flaws before they are exploited by malicious hackers. This can save the company from potential financial losses and damage to their reputation.

Unlike traditional penetration testing, which on average cost anywhere from $4,000-$100,000 depending on scope, bug bounty programs can offer a cost-effective solution for ongoing security testing.

For more information on whether launching a bug bounty program makes sense for your business, check out our post: How to Start a Bug Bounty Program.