Cyberspace is home to all kinds of characters, some good while others are always up to something nefarious. For those conscious about security, striking that balance between good-intentioned characters-aka white-hats- and bad intentioned characters- aka black-hats- has always been important.
As the criminal cyberspace conjures new attack methods and new finds vulnerabilities, it’s upon the good guys to quickly patch them or stay ahead by discovering bugs and patching them beforehand. In cybersecurity circles, these good guys are commonly referred to as bounty white-hats. They play a critical role in ensuring the safety of tools and systems companies depend on for survival.
What Exactly is a Bug Bounty?
A bug bounty, as its name might suggest, is a proactive approach to system and application security where companies invite white-hat hackers to probe their systems with an aim of finding vulnerabilities. Similar to traditional bounties, a reward must be in place for those who successfully breach applications and report them using available white-hat channels.
A good bug bounty program must be structured and attract the best security experts and enthusiasts. Companies who run a successful bug bounty may benefit in the following ways:
- Get the best talent – You might not have the best security experts and hackers who are also called into the security world internally. A bug bounty program will give you unfettered access to the best talent and an outside opinion on the security of your application and existing safeguards. You are more likely to discover bugs and other potentially harmful issues with external experts motivated by the reward program (bug bounty).
- Improve your applications and safeguards– It’s not enough to go through all the security testing and probing internally. There are probably billions of new attack methods out there which your small team can’t possibly cover within a limited timeframe. A bug bounty program that yields negative and positive results will help you discover hidden vulnerabilities and fix them.
- Value the white-hats– In a world where cybersecurity continues to be the biggest risk factor for most businesses, those who choose to protect and fight the bad elements must be valued. Bug bounties allow white-hat hackers to earn from their skills and stay ahead of the criminals through practice. An average 5% of IT development budgets go to bug bounty rewards, which is nothing compared to what a company would lose if a breach occurred.
- Bug bounties for security companies– Companies that provide security solutions such as VPNs and firewalls are especially in need of well-structured bug bounty programs. Any vulnerabilities in security applications must be discovered early and by the right people to prevent the devastating effects of criminals breaching such systems.
How you can participate in bug bounties
Are you a white-hat hacker looking to make some money doing what you love? There are several companies out there with bug bounty programs that are always open to everyone interested regardless of their skillset or location.
For instance, Express VPN’s bug-bounty program has been hosted by Bugcrowd since 2016 to white-hat hackers who would like to try their hand in finding bugs on a modern VPN service. Other companies and organizations with active and potentially lucrative bug bounties include Facebook, Google, PayPal, and even the US Pentagon.
All in all, bug bounties are an important component of modern security. This is evident by the number of bugs discovered in the last few years through properly implemented bug bounties. The cyberspace is definitely a safer place with white-hat hackers doing what they are good at and getting rewarded for it.