Defend Your Organisation’s Security with a Bug Bounty Program

Big Tech is all in for bug bounty programs while global cyberattacks are increasing. While we can’t control the number of hackers or their intent to breach our systems, we can identify vulnerabilities in our systems and implement strategies that secure them. To start, it’s best to get into the minds of the hackers.

Bug Bounty Programs
A bug bounty program offers a monetary incentive to ethical hackers, who are IT security experts who test computer networks and systems with the permission of their owners. Ethical hackers are tasked with successfully identifying and reporting vulnerabilities and bugs. These programs enable organisations to leverage the hacker community to enhance the organisation’s security posture.

A Romanian ethical hacker, Cosmin Lordache, also known as @inhibitor181, has earned over $2 million through HackerOne, the global cybersecurity organisation that pioneered the first bug bounty program through its ethical hacker community. Top hackers who are part of bug bounty programs can even earn a full-time salary. But these hackers aren’t in it just for the money. They often receive industry commendations, which solidifies their reputation as skilled, reliable, and trustworthy for organisations to work with.

One major advantage that sets bug bounty programs apart from other forms of testing is that it’s a continuous process. From an organisation’s perspective, bug bounty programs, alongside penetration testing, form strong security assessments to fortify the organisation.

Who’s Running These Programs?
Let’s review bug bounty programs sponsored by three leading high-tech organisations. Each organisation receives valuable information for defending its IT infrastructures against cyberattacks in exchange for rewards they provide to white hat hackers.

Google runs one of the most popular bug bounty programs. The Google Vulnerability Reward Program compensates white hat hackers for reporting vulnerabilities on Google-owned or Alphabet subsidiary web services that handle sensitive user data. Rewards are based on the impact of the reported issue. Vulnerabilities that qualify are cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, mixed-content scripts, authentication or authorisation flaws, and server-side code execution bugs. Prize money ranges from $100 to $31,337 based on the reported vulnerability.

Apple’s bug bounty program offers rewards for reporting issues on Apple devices, software, or services. Its compensation is based on reported vulnerabilities and can range from $5,000 to $1 million.

Issues unique to newly added features or code in developer and public beta releases, including regressions, are rewarded with an additional 50% bonus, up to $1.5 million, and vulnerabilities reported during Lockdown Mode are given a 100% additional bonus, up to $2 million.

ManageEngine runs a Vulnerability Reward Program (VRP) to continuously improve the security of its products. To join ManageEngine’s VRP, you must be 14 years or older and cannot be a resident of US-sanctioned countries. You cannot be an employee of Zoho Corporation or have been employed by Zoho Corporation within six months of your participation in the bug bounty program, and you cannot be related to a Zoho Corporation employee. ManageEngine’s bug bounty rewards are based on the severity of the issues reported and compensation ranges from $50 to $3,000.

How Do You Run a Successful Bug Bounty Program?
You can run an effective bug bounty program if you follow these steps:

  • Start with determining the scope and budget of the program.
  • Decide on competitive payouts that demonstrate to the hacker community (and to your customers) that you value your organisation’s security.
  • Categorise vulnerabilities based on their impact and assign a base reward value accordingly.
  • Ensure that this testing doesn’t hinder your organisation’s day-to-day business operations by keeping certain domains off-limits. Implement this step at your sole discretion.
  • Develop detailed terms and conditions regarding what the hacker can test.
  • Create a webpage with details on how the test will be conducted as well as the terms and conditions regarding the rewards program.

Key Takeaways
Many organisations regularly test their security systems to identify vulnerabilities. Placing this task in the hands of external teams of white hat hackers is one way to ensure your organisation stays informed and can successfully defend against the ever-evolving strategies of today’s cyberattacks. In the current tech landscape, these imperative security measures might save your organisation thousands if not millions of dollars in financial losses, and they may end up protecting your organisation’s business reputation.

Taking notes from Big Tech companies such as Google, Apple, and Meta, it’s time for you to run a bug bounty program and safeguard your company against critical vulnerabilities.