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Hackers surpassed US$82 million in bug bounties on HackerOne to date; Hacker community expanded to over 600,000 with nearly 850 hackers registering any given day

A recent research report suggests that the concept of hacking as a viable career has become a reality with 18 percent of those surveyed describing themselves as full-time hackers who are searching for vulnerabilities and making the internet a safer place for everyone.

Not only are more hackers spending a higher percentage of their time hacking, they’re also earning a living doing it, says HackerOne, a market leader in pen-test and bug bounty platform services in their 2020 Hacker Report (click on this link to access the report).

The report is an annual study of the bug bounty and vulnerability disclosure ecosystem, detailing the efforts and motivations of hackers from the 170 countries who represent the HackerOne hacker community and are working every day to protect the 1,700 companies and government agencies on the HackerOne platform.

“Hackers are a global force for good, working together to secure our interconnected society,” said Luke Tucker, Senior Director of the Global Hacker Community. “The community welcomes all who enjoy the intellectual challenge to creatively overcome limitations. Their reasons for hacking may vary, but the results are consistently impressing the growing ranks of organisations embracing hackers through crowdsourced security — leaving us all a lot safer than before.”

Some of the key finds are given below:

  • Global growth of bug bounty programs is being following by the globalisation of the hacker community. Hackers from Switzerland and Austria earned over 950% more than in the previous year, and hackers from Singapore, China, and other countries in APAC earned over 250% more than in 2018.
  • The hacker community continues to grow at a robust pace, nearly doubling in the past year to more than 600,000 registered.
  • Hundreds of hackers are registering to join the ranks every day – nearly 850 on average – working to secure the technologies of more than 1,700 global customer programs.
  • Hacking also provides valuable professional experience, with 78% of hackers using their hacking experience to help them find or better compete for a career opportunity.
  • Hacking is becoming a popular income supplement or career choice. Nearly 40% of hackers devote 20 hours or more per week to search for vulnerabilities. And 18% of our survey respondents describe themselves as full-time hackers.
  • Hackers earned approximately US$40 million in bounties in 2019 alone, which is nearly equal to the bounty totals for all preceding years combined. At the end of this past year, hackers had cumulatively earned more than US$82 million for valid vulnerability reports.In addition to the seven hackers who have passed the US$1 million earning milestone – the most recent of which was announcedtoday – thirteen more hit US$500,000 in lifetime earnings.
  • Hackers in the U.S. earned 19% of all bounties last year, with India (10%), Russia (8%), China (7%), Germany (5%), and Canada (4%) rounding out the top 6 highest-earning countries.

“No industry or profession has experienced an evolution quite like hacking,” explained Tucker. “It started in the darkest underbelly of the internet, where hackers roamed the online world in search of vulnerabilities. It later grew into a respectable hobby, something that talented people could do on the side. Now it’s a professional calling: hackers, pen-testers, and security researchers are trusted and respected, and they provide a valuable service for us all.”

This tectonic shift is happening at every corner of the globe. Hackers today are living in countries like Panama, New Zealand, Hungary, Senegal, Cuba, Vietnam, and Venezuela, working to make the internet safer for everyone. As hacker-powered security programs become ubiquitous, it’s easy for hackers to find new and potentially lucrative opportunities from anywhere — all they need is an internet connection.

This is, in part, due to the global growth of hacker-powered security programs. Federal Governments led the pack across the globe in 2019 with the strongest year-over-year industry growth at 214%, and last year saw the first launch of programs at the municipal level, according to the 2019 Hacker-Powered Security Report.

In 2019 alone, HackerOne launched 22 programs and 36 altogether since 2016 with governments in North America, Asia and Europe. Every minute of every day, hackers and companies across the globe come together to make the internet safer for everyone.



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