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Threat Intelligence

IoT Vulns Draw Biggest Bug Bounty Payouts

As bug bounty programs become more popular outside of the technology sector, IoT vulnerabilities are yielding the highest payouts for bug hunters, according to two reports released Wednesday.

Finding vulnerabilities tied to the Internet of Things (IoT) carries the potential to capture payouts that are considered among the most lucrative for bug hunters, according to reports released Wednesday by Bugcrowd and HackerOne.

IoT and hardware bugs found in such devices as routers, webcams, wearables, and automobiles pay an average of $724 per submission, which is substantially higher than the overall average of $451 per submission last year, according to Bugcrowd. As a result, IoT and hardware targets are viewed as the targets with the highest value.

"The main reason the payouts are higher is that these bugs are more difficult to find and the consequences of these bugs can be more severe or impactful," says Casey Ellis, founder and CEO of Bugcrowd, which conducts both public and private bug bounty programs.

Anecdotally, Alex Rice, co-founder and chief technology officer of HackerOne, noted because a higher level of expertise is often needed to find IoT bugs, organizations putting up the bug bounties will often pay the most. Intel, for example, pays $30,000 for its bug bounties, Rice says.

Not only are IoT bug bounties lucrative, but bug bounty programs tied to IoT are on a sharp rise, according to HackerOne. IoT bug bounty programs played a significant role in the 59% growth rate in the tech industry's new bug bounty programs this year over last, according to HackerOne.

Swarm of Bug Bounty Programs Emerge

IoT bug bounties are just part of the picture in a rapidly expanding field. Last year, the number of corporate bug bounty programs tripled, and the payouts from these programs rose by 211%, to $4 million, according to Bugcrowd's Bug Bounty 2017 report.  

And while the tech sector was the pioneer in adopting the use of bug bounty programs to find flaws in their software and hardware, a number of other industries are embracing the concept.

For example, in 2016, 41% of companies launching bug bounty programs were outside of the tech sector, such as in the financial services and banking, government, media and entertainment, and e-commerce and retail industries, according to HackerOne, which conducts all of its bug bounty programs on behalf of corporate customers that want a private, invite-only program.

"Non-tech industries are rapidly becoming tech without knowing it," Rice says, pointing to corporate mantras like "mobile first" or "API driven" that are espoused by non-tech companies.

The difference in payouts between public bug bounty and private bug bounty programs is also somewhat striking. Bugcrowd, which performs both types of bounties for its clients, noted the highest payout given for a single vulnerability was $50,000 and the lowest was $50, with the average falling in at $451 per submission. HackerOne, which only deals in private bug bounties, noted the average bounty for a critical vulnerability was $1,923 this year, an increase of 16% over 2015.

Although a number of the statistics gleaned by HackerOne was a continuation of the trend of bigger payouts and more bug bounty programs emerging, Rice says he was pleasantly surprised by the time it takes for a company to fix their flaws once a bug hunter has informed them of the problem.

"One of the most encouraging signs is the time to resolution. We are seeing this heading down," says Rice, noting companies are identifying and fixing problems at a faster clip.

The e-commerce and retail industry is the fastest, taking an average of 31 days from the point of being notified to solving the issue, according to HackerOne. The telecom industry, however, is the worst, with a 90-day lag time to fix the issue.

Related content:

Bug Bounty Programs are Growing Up Fast and Paying More

The Bug Bounty Model: 21 Years & Counting

US Army Bug Bounty Program Fixes 118 Flaws

8 Hot Hacking Tools to Come out of Black Hat USA

 

 

 

Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

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