What is a bug bounty program?

Giulio Saggin
Giulio Saggin
Tuesday 28 November 2023

Bug bounty programs are when an incentive - usually monetary - is offered by the makers of software and hardware to anyone who can find bugs (flaws/vulnerabilities) in its product. This allows the makers to uncover and fix these bugs before the wider public - including hackers - discovers them and uses them for the 'purposes of evil'.

Corporations such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft (even several US Government Agencies) have used bug bounties, often worth big - VERY big - bucks (in November 2019, Google offered $1.5 million to anyone able to hack its Titan M security chip, which is used on its Pixel devices). Other companies also play a role in the bug bounty 'business'. Zerodium, for example, sells bugs to the highest bidder (as their site states: "We pay BIG bounties, not bug bounties"), while some, such as HackerOne, run bug bounty programs (for as little as $50 per bounty) for a multitude of organisations that want to have their products intentionally tested - hacked - by penetration testers and cybersecurity researchers.

As a historical aside, the first recognised bug bounty took place in 1983, with the winner receiving a Volkswagen Beetle (aka Bug ... get it?).

SecAlerts isn't in the bug bounty business but we do alert you to the 'fixes' (CVEs) for vulnerabilities that result from bug bounties. Enter your software stack and receive a free weekly report with a round-up of CVEs (& security news) unique to your stack:

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