A clear and easy to read policy is key to developing a good internal bug bounty program, according to BugCrowd which has published guidelines to help businesses encourage the security community to report vulnerabilities.
bounties are an increasingly popular means to provide a legally safe
avenue for security researchers to report bugs they find in hardware,
software and services. Such programs help to overcome a prevailing fear
that reporting flaws could prompt affected vendors to return the favour
with legal action as result of unauthorised hacking.
BugCrowd suggests cash - not tee shirts - are the best way to
encourage researchers to more regular and intense testing of products
BugCrowd engineer Drew Sing (Drew_Sing) published the open source guidelines on Github and emphasised the need for simplicity and executive awareness.
high priority security issue handled improperly could damage the
reputation of the organisation ... the development, IT and
communications team are all critical components to a successful
program," Sing wrote.
"Receiving your first vulnerability report
from the outside world can be a scary and confronting experience, but
keep in mind that the researcher is pro-actively trying to help you."
guide suggests a bug bounty program should be published in an obvious
location on websites, preferably located with the /security subdomain,
and sport a dedicated security contact who is well-briefed in handling
The page should detail what vulnerabilities were in scope and those deemed off-limits.
a bug arrives, acknowledgement is key. "Acknowledge initial receipt of
any report, and set expectations for a response," Sing says in the
guidelines. "Keep the researcher informed during each stage of the
Correspondence should be clear, purposeful
and keep the bug hunter abreast of any updates, vulnerability triage or
planned patching. Emails are the preferred medium for disclosures since
they provide a paper trail. Those who run bug bounty programs should
expect that correspondence about bugs will be made public.
sure you resolve the vulnerability quickly. For most researchers, this
is the most important part - seeing the positive impact of their work,"
Researchers often allow the afflicted one to three
months to fix vulnerabilities, making developments of patches or
work-arounds was a priority. Failure to do act can land a vulnerable
organisation in mailing lists like Full Disclosure or splattered across
social media and news sites.
Rewards can take the form of a
vulnerability hall of fame, where bug hunters were named for their
contributions, and cash or prizes.
Vulture South recommends
organisations offer rewards appropriate to the size of the business. A
laudable bug bounty initiative by an individual security bod at Yahoo! became laughable
after a serious security vulnerability that allowed accounts to be
easily compromised was rewarded with a $12.50 voucher for tat in the
Yahoo! store. Following a smattering of bad press, the Purple Palace setup a formal bug bounty.
efforts to define a good bounty program are not unique. Last year, Kiwi
security bods under the New Zealand Internet Task Force published draft
guidelines (PDF) they hoped would be adopted by business and government across the country.
Readers can tune in to a podcast
(created in your correspondent's past life) detailing that draft and
bug bounties more broadly, including tips for researchers, as part of a
Kiwicon presentation by Lateral Security's Nick von Dadelszen and
Department of Internal Affairs analyst Ben Creet.