What is a bug bounty platform and how it works?

Andrii Stepanov
Marketing Manager
4 Minutes Read

Is it possible to detect all vulnerabilities of a product before its launch? No, because the real environment, with all possible security risks, is significantly different from the test format. Only in real conditions can you check the functionality and safety of the product for users, considering all circumstances, including unforeseen ones.

A bug bounty is a special program that involves the participation of white (ethical) hackers in the search for vulnerabilities and defects of the product after its official launch. Customers of bug bounty programs can include private businesses, the public sector, non-governmental organizations, financial sector institutions, and more. White hackers search for vulnerabilities in a product and receive financial compensation in exchange for valuable information about its vulnerabilities.

The bug bounty customer defines the scope of the program, the criteria for attracting white hackers, the amount of rewards and the structure of their payment, the duration of the program, and the list of priority vulnerabilities.

What are the types of bug bounties?

By the level of organization:

  • Organized by the company itself without the involvement of third parties. The company takes full responsibility for the implementation of the program and independently determines all the conditions of the program. For instance, Microsoft regularly launches bug bounty programs on its platform to test the security of its most popular products. For this purpose, companies create separate departments that exclusively deal with the organization and implementation of bug bounty programs.
  • Organized on an independent platform. Most companies lack the expertise to independently organize and launch a bug bounty program. Therefore, they seek the services of professional platforms such as HackerOne, BugCrowd, HackenProof, and others.

By the level of access of ethical hackers:

  • Public. An unlimited number of participants can take part in these programs. The only condition for white hackers is to register on the platform.
  • Private. To participate in closed bug bounty programs, you need to receive a special invitation from the organizer. The criteria for participation in this type of bug bounty program are set both by the customer of the program and by the platform that conducts it.

What is the competitive advantage of bug bounty programs for companies?

The popularity of bug bounty programs for businesses and government institutions is explained by a series of competitive advantages:

  1. Resource Savings. Bug bounty programs do not require additional hiring of employees, and ethical hackers are paid only for the specific results of their work.
  2. Flexibility. The client can modify the terms of the program depending on the set goals. The client also determines which components of the product require independent testing. In this way, companies do not need to order testing of the entire product, but only those components that require special attention.
  3. Market Trust. By organizing a bug bounty, a company shows the market its readiness to further improve its product, despite possible additional financial costs. In this case, products that have undergone a bug bounty, especially those organized on well-known independent platforms, gain a high level of market trust.
  4. Attracting Talented Specialists. During the bug bounty program, a company can identify qualified specialists interested in further improving product security. In this case, the bug bounty serves as another channel to attract talented specialists to the company without creating significant additional costs for the company’s HR department.

How does bug bounty save clients from mega hacks?

In 2022, the crypto company Aurora paid an ethical hacker $6 million as a reward for identifying a critical vulnerability. If exploited, cybercriminals could have caused the project damages of $330 million. The white hacker Pwning.eth found a vulnerability in the product used by developers to create and launch applications simultaneously on two platforms – Near and Ethereum. The essence of the discovered bug was that attackers could mint cryptocurrencies in geometric progression. As a result, the approximate losses that Aurora managed to avoid amount to 70,000 ETH and over $200 million in other virtual assets.

This story confirms the effectiveness of bug bounty programs for clients. The cost of saved assets is many times higher than the reward received by the white hacker.

What is the mechanism of interaction between the user and the test customer?

The platform, where bug bounty programs are organized, posts a detailed description of each program, indicating a list of vulnerabilities for priority search. The higher the threat level from vulnerability, the higher the reward the white hacker receives.

After identifying a vulnerability in the product, the user submits a report that is then processed by the platform’s team. In the report, the user describes the detected vulnerability and suggests correction options. The team analyzes the report for repetition and significance, as most reports do not contain valuable information and typically only cover purely “cosmetic” fixes. If the information provided by the user is relevant and used by the client to eliminate the vulnerability, then the user receives the specified reward.

Want to know more about bug bounty programs? Get in touch to request a demo with our team today!

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