Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Threat Intelligence

12/12/2018
04:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Bug Hunting Paves Path to Infosec Careers

Ethical hackers use bug bounty programs to build the skills they need to become security professionals.

Current and future cybersecurity professionals are using bug bounty programs to gain skills they can use to become security analysts, CISOs, or, in some cases, full-time vulnerability hunters.

As part of its 2018 "Inside the Mind of a Hacker" report, researchers at Bugcrowd polled 65,000 hackers from around the world to better understand who they are, what motivates them, and the sustainability of a hacker career. Most (81%) respondents credit bug hunting with helping them land a job in the security field, and many continue to use it to supplement full-time roles.

Five to 10 years ago, there weren't enough bug bounty programs to turn the practice into a full-time position, says Jason Haddix, vice president of researcher growth at Bugcrowd. Now there is more opportunity: The top 50 hackers' average yearly payout is $145,000, with over 600 valid submissions. The average payout per bug across the platform is $783.

Still, more people prefer to bug hunt on the side while working other jobs or attending university. Students spend 10 to 20 hours per week on ethical hacking, Haddix explains, and 66% of all Bugcrowd respondents spend up to 10 hours per week bug hunting. The practice is giving them valuable skills they can use to help fill the growing security talent gap.

"One of the things that was cool about this report was the amount the hunters are using this experience – finding vulnerabilities and bug bounties – to find jobs in security," Haddix says. It's an interesting educational path in a field where traditional college programs struggle to keep up.

Nearly 41% of bug hunters teach themselves and 43% use blogs and online resources to learn the skills they need. It's a highly motivated group: Nearly 32% want to be full-time bug hunters, 15% aspire to be security engineers at major tech companies, and 6% are training to be CISOs.

The Best Education Is Experience
You don't need a lot of experience to get into ethical hacking, Haddix points out. While 41.5% of hackers polled have three or more years of professional security experience, close to 30% only have one to two years, and 14.3% have no security experience at all. Bugcrowd's hackers are relatively young, with nearly all (94%) between the ages of 18 to 44 and 71.5% between the ages of 18 and 29.

Higher education is still popular; 80% of respondents have attended college. But the percentage of those with a master's degree (18%) matches the percentage of those who have a high school education or less. "Formal education is becoming the road less traveled," Bugcrowd reports. Bug hunters have both the skills and experience companies look for in security job candidates.

"It's powerful to say, 'Instead of taking a certification or class, I found a critical vulnerability on a Fortune 500 company,'" Haddix explains. What's more, they can offer proof of their expertise with a bug disclosure or status on a leaderboard. It goes "leaps farther" than a certification, he says.

The most prominent skill bug hunters learn is Web application hacking, which Haddix says makes up the biggest portion of today's bug bounties. For those getting started, learning Web application testing is a good gateway into ethical hacking – and where the most opportunity is. Most university courses don't dig into Web hacking, he adds, and online resources provide wannabe hackers with fake vulnerable applications they can dig into for practice.

"Practical experience is the one thing you seem to lack in today's security researchers," Haddix adds. "We need people with experience. New people are having a hard time getting into security."

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Overcoming the Challenge of Shorter Certificate Lifespans
Mike Cooper, Founder & CEO of Revocent,  10/15/2020
7 Tips for Choosing Security Metrics That Matter
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer,  10/19/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-27621
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-22
The FileImporter extension in MediaWiki through 1.35.0 was not properly attributing various user actions to a specific user's IP address. Instead, for various actions, it would report the IP address of an internal Wikimedia Foundation server by omitting X-Forwarded-For data. This resulted in an inab...
CVE-2020-27620
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-22
The Cosmos Skin for MediaWiki through 1.35.0 has stored XSS because MediaWiki messages were not being properly escaped. This is related to wfMessage and Html::rawElement, as demonstrated by CosmosSocialProfile::getUserGroups.
CVE-2020-27619
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-22
In Python 3 through 3.9.0, the Lib/test/multibytecodec_support.py CJK codec tests call eval() on content retrieved via HTTP.
CVE-2020-17454
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-21
WSO2 API Manager 3.1.0 and earlier has reflected XSS on the "publisher" component's admin interface. More precisely, it is possible to inject an XSS payload into the owner POST parameter, which does not filter user inputs. By putting an XSS payload in place of a valid Owner Name, a modal b...
CVE-2020-24421
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-21
Adobe InDesign version 15.1.2 (and earlier) is affected by a memory corruption vulnerability due to insecure handling of a malicious .indd file, potentially resulting in arbitrary code execution in the context of the current user. User interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability.