Vulnerabilities / Threats
02:44 PM
Connect Directly

Google To Reward Fixes For Open Source Software

Google expands its bug bounty program, plans to pay programmers who help patch the open-source projects it cares about.

Google Nexus 7, Chromecast: Visual Tour
Google Nexus 7, Chromecast: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view)
Google is expanding the scope of the financial rewards it offers to security researchers who identify errors in software code. To complement its existing Vulnerability Reward Program for its Web applications and Chrome browser, the company has introduced Patch Rewards, a program that goes beyond flaw finding to flaw fixing: It will pay hackers for code contributions that get applied to certain open-source projects.

Michal Zalewski, a security engineer at Google, characterizes the initiative as an effort "to improve the security of key third-party software critical to the health of the entire Internet."

The program covers a limited set of open-source projects: core infrastructure network services (OpenSSH, BIND, ISC DHCP); core infrastructure image parsers (libjpeg, libjpeg-turbo, libpng, giflib); the open-source foundations of Google Chrome (Chromium and Blink — sorry, WebKit); and other important libraries (OpenSSL, zlib).

In time, Zalewski says the program will be extended to include: popular Web servers (Apache httpd, lighttpd, nginx); SMTP services (Sendmail, Postfix, Exim); toolchain security improvements for GCC, binutils, and llvm; and OpenVPN.

[ Will doctors soon wear Google Glass? Read Google Glass Enters Operating Room. ]

Patches that have been accepted by project maintainers and merged into the project repository qualify for a reward ranging from $500 to $3,133.70, to be determined by Google's rewards panel, based on the sophistication and significance of the patch.

For open-source contributors who have grown accustomed to working for self-satisfaction, karma and gratitude, Google's largesse will probably be appreciated. But it's a pittance given the prices being paid for bugs these days, unless Yahoo's generosity is the yardstick.

Last month, High-Tech Bridge, a security company based in Switzerland, reported four security vulnerabilities to Yahoo. Yahoo responded by offering the company $25 for two of them, or $12.50 per accepted vulnerability. Adding insult to injury, the funds were offered in the form of credit in the Yahoo Company Store.

High-Tech Bridge subsequently published a blog post to shame Yahoo and the ploy worked: Yahoo revised its bug bounty program and now offers rewards of $150 to $15,000.

But that's still significantly less than what Microsoft is paying through its Mitigation Bypass Bounty and BlueHat Bonus for Defense Program: up to $100,000 for bypass techniques, with a bonus of $50,000 for applicable defense techniques. Last week, Microsoft said it would pay $100,000 to James Forshaw, a security researcher with Context Information Security, for the discovery of a new mitigation bypass technique.

A UC Berkeley study of vulnerability reward programs, released earlier this year, found that bug bounties are cost-efficient. Google's program, the paper says, costs the company roughly $500 per day, about the same as a full-time security engineer paid $100,000, with 50% overhead. But Google's program leads to the identification of far more flaws than a single researcher could find.

Other companies appear to have caught on, with dozens now offering rewards to security researchers.

Technology companies might have to go higher still to outbid the U.S. government. In August, The Washington Post reported that so far this year, the National Security Agency has spent more than $25 million buying software vulnerabilities from security vendors. A report last year in Forbes said zero-day vulnerabilities ranged in price from $5,000 to $250,000.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Drew Conry-Murray
Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2013 | 12:05:06 AM
re: Google To Reward Fixes For Open Source Software
This seems like a sensible evolution of the bug bounty program. Knowing the vulnerability exists is useful, but having a patch is even better.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest September 7, 2015
Some security flaws go beyond simple app vulnerabilities. Have you checked for these?
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2015-10-12
vpxd in VMware vCenter Server 5.0 before u3e, 5.1 before u3, and 5.5 before u2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service via a long heartbeat message.

Published: 2015-10-12
The JMX RMI service in VMware vCenter Server 5.0 before u3e, 5.1 before u3b, 5.5 before u3, and 6.0 before u1 does not restrict registration of MBeans, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via the RMI protocol.

Published: 2015-10-12
Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) B Blade Server Software 2.2.x before 2.2.6 allows local users to cause a denial of service (host OS or BMC hang) by sending crafted packets over the Inter-IC (I2C) bus, aka Bug ID CSCuq77241.

Published: 2015-10-12
The process-management implementation in Cisco TelePresence Video Communication Server (VCS) Expressway X8.5.2 allows local users to gain privileges by terminating a supervised process and then triggering the restart of a process by the root account, aka Bug ID CSCuv12272.

Published: 2015-10-12
HP 3PAR Service Processor SP 4.2.0.GA-29 (GA) SPOCC, SP 4.3.0.GA-17 (GA) SPOCC, and SP 4.3.0-GA-24 (MU1) SPOCC allows remote authenticated users to obtain sensitive information via unspecified vectors.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
What can the information security industry do to solve the IoT security problem? Learn more and join the conversation on the next episode of Dark Reading Radio.