Crowdsourced bug disclosure programs are popular. The latest evidence is Bugcrowd, which in October alone paid out $1.6 million to some 550 white hat hackers from around the world who collectively reported a total of 6,500 vulnerabilities in products belonging to companies signed up with the platform.
More than $513,000 of those payouts was made just last week—a record in a 7-day period for Bugcrowd since it launched in 2011. The biggest payout of $40,000 went to a hacker who disclosed a bug in an automotive software product.
Over 300 of the 6,500 valid bug submissions to Bugcrowd in October were classified as P1 under Bugcrowd’s vulnerability rating taxonomy. These are bugs that are most critical in nature.
Examples include privilege escalation bugs, remote code execution flaws, and bugs that enable financial theft or expose critically sensitive data such as passwords, says David Baker, CSO and vice president of operations at Bugcrowd. “Some recognizable examples of a P1 vulnerability are EternalBlue, BlueKeep, and Apache Struts, the vulnerability that led to the massive breach at Equifax.”
Bugcrowd’s numbers for October are considerably higher than five years ago, when it paid about $30,000 to 85 hackers. Just five of the bugs reported in October in 2014 were critical.
According to Bugcrowd, bug bounty payouts for 2019 so far is more than 80% higher than last year’s payouts, meaning that security researchers are finding and reporting a lot more bugs than ever under the program. “In a matter of a five-year span, we’ve exponentially multiplied payouts, Crowd engagement, and critical findings,” Bugcrowd said in a statement Friday. “To say we’re excited is an understatement.”
Managed vulnerability hunting and disclosure programs like Bugcrowd, HackerOne, and Synack have become popular in recent years. Many organizations—across industries and companies of all sizes—have signed up with these platforms and let freelance bug hunters poke and prod at their products for security vulnerabilities. The goal is to give organizations a way to find bugs in their software that they might have otherwise missed—and more cheaply than if they were to hire their own security researchers for the job.
As is to be expected a majority of the bugs that security researchers find and report to Bugcrowd are of the medium to low severity type, Baker says. “As a rule, there’s always going to be fewer critical issues than there are medium- or low-severity findings—simply by the fact that they’re harder to find,” he notes. “That said, the most dollars have gone out for medium-priority findings, compared to high or critical vulnerabilities,” he notes.
On average, bug submissions on Bugcrowd can fetch around $900. But high-severity and critical P1 bugs can garner around $3,000 on average and much more in some cases. “Car hacking skill tends to be a pretty lucrative skillset,” for instance, Baker says.
Since launch, security researchers have reported over 300,000 vulnerabilities to the Bugcrowd platform. Over the last year alone, submissions increased nearly two-fold, Baker says. Currently, hundreds of thousands of security researchers from around the world are signed up with the platform.
About 30% of them are from the United States. India hosts the second largest group, followed by Great Britain, Baker says. Over the last couple of years, crowdsourced security activity has really accelerated in India, he says. “We are seeing not just an increase in researchers but also a gradual increase in skills as people learn from and teach others.”
Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year … View Full Bio