A bug bounty program is a deal offered by businesses and organizations in which cybersecurity experts can receive recognition and monetary compensation in return for reporting bugs within the software security infrastructure of these enterprises. A software bug is an error, flaw or fault in computer software that causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result, or to behave in unintended ways.
They plague modern day businesses on a day-to-day basis as critical bugs can often have detrimental repercussions on their operations. In extreme cases bugs can even lead to the leakage of important data if a black hat hacker is able to infiltrate into the software infrastructure of the company.
Every company which has any digital presence, be it an MNC or a start-up, is prone to software vulnerabilities and a breach can often be very damaging not only to the functioning of the organization but also it’s credibility. As a result, spotting and fixing bugs in applications becomes of paramount importance. Bug bounty programs are arguably the most effective way to get these bugs reported and fixed.
Why is that so, you ask? These programs are effective on two fronts, namely cost and speed. When a company sets up a bug bounty program it usually offers a one-time compensation to the hackers who do report valid and unique bugs. On the other hand, if a company were to set up an entire security team to do the same job it would need to constantly keep them on their payroll, regardless of the efficiency of the team.
Hence, bug bounty programs provide companies and organizations to get the best bang for their buck as they only need to reward the hackers who show the results. Also, when scores of cybersecurity experts form around the world are directly competing to report valid bugs before anyone else, it is bound to make the entire process faster. The white hat hackers who report these bugs must not just be correct, they must also be the first ones to report the bug if they wish to be rewarded. Slowly but surely, a greater number of organizations around the world are realizing the effectiveness and necessity of bug bounty programs.
Evidently, companies and organizations can benefit massively by setting up bug bounty programs. But the benefits of these programs are not just limited to them. The other primary stakeholder in the process is the community of cybersecurity experts and white hat hackers who massively benefit through these programs too. They give hackers a legal and ethical means to ply their trade with a guaranteed reward upon being successful. Moreover, these programs have empowered freelance hackers in a massive way.
According to reports, freelance hackers made approximately 40 million dollars through bug bounties in 2019 alone. Due to the result oriented nature of bug bounty programs things like age, gender, educational background and region become completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether you work out of your bedroom or a corner office. What matters is the validity and importance of your report.
According to a 2018 report, a quarter of the hackers globally chose not to disclose their findings simply because they did not have a formal channel to do so. The onus lies on organizations to make it as convenient as it is possible for these hackers to reach out to them and share their findings. Bug bounty programs do just that. They provide an opportunity for mutual growth between cybersecurity experts and businesses.
Needless to say, it also provides a healthy alternative to black hat hacking and allows cybersecurity experts to use their skills to build fruitful careers whilst making the internet a safer place. The meritocratic nature of bug bounty hunting allows hackers from varied backgrounds to compete on a level playing field. Bug bounties offer an opportunity for collaborative growth. With enough careful planning and consideration, they can continue to advance the security industry as a whole. With the number of companies hitching onto the bug bounty program train rising across the world, there is no doubt that bug bounties are going to play a major role in the world of cybersecurity in the future.