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Vulnerabilities / Threats

1/30/2015
04:05 PM
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Google Paid Over $1.5 Million In Bug Bounties In 2014

Mobile apps developed by Google now included in its Vulnerability Reward Program.

Google last year doled out more than $1.5 million to security researchers who rooted out vulnerabilities in its open-source software and web services.

The search engine giant today released a 2014 postmortem of its Security Reward Programs, which includes its Vulnerability Reward Program. The top-dollar reward of 2014 went to George Hotz, who earned a $150,000 reward from Google for finding flaws in the Chrome operating system. Hotz was later hired as an intern with the Project Zero team at Google.

Google last year awarded bug bounties for more than 500 vulnerabilities found by some 200 security researchers. "For Chrome, more than half of all rewarded reports for 2014 were in developer and beta versions," Google security engineer Eduardo Vela Nava wrote in a blog post today. "We were able to squash bugs before they could reach our main user population."

And now mobile apps are up for grabs as well: any Google-developed mobile apps on Google Play and iTunes are now part of the Vulnerability Reward Program.

Google also has rolled out an experimental research grant program to help researchers offset the cost of the increasingly more difficult task of finding serious bugs. "These are up-front awards that we will provide to researchers before they ever submit a bug," Vela Nava says.

The company will designate which types of vulnerabilities and which products and services are eligible for the grants, which could be as high as $3,133.70. "We'll award grants immediately before research begins, with no strings attached. Researchers then pursue the research they applied for, as usual," according to Vela Nava.  

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
2/5/2015 | 7:10:57 PM
Re: Google so great?
@Marilyn: Indeed.  On the other hand, there is computer science research that indicates that a software project can only have a maximum number of "useful" reviewers -- typically between two and four -- before slamming into a brick wall of diminishing returns.  So, to play devil's advocate with myself, maybe that $1.5 mil. on the front end would have been a waste.

The other problem is that security review is less exciting and interesting than feature review -- a more significant problem that could use a solution.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
2/3/2015 | 8:47:25 AM
Re: Google so great?
There is definitely more that can always be done in browser application security (and elsewhere). I wonder how far Google's $1.5 million payout  in bug bounties would have gone on the front end  versus the back end of the process...
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2015 | 9:30:43 PM
Re: Google so great?
Oh, don't geet me wrong.  I applaud Google's bug bounty program.  Collaboration is key in cybersecurity.  Nonetheless, with the sheer amount of bugs being found and bug bounties being paid out here, it strongly suggests that Google's engineers aren't quite pulling their security weight.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2015 | 12:37:57 PM
Re: Google so great?
I would prefer that the incentive program be the case because not even the Google Engineers can anticipate everything. Having your product tested by a larger group will ensure that more vectors are tested. With technology increasing its capabilities quickly, its not like Google has a finite checklist that they can run through every time. The bug possiblities change with the type of software.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 10:46:49 PM
Google so great?
Maybe this is just the cynic in me, but at a certain point, with all of these bug bounties being paid out, one has to question the quality of the hiring and/or corporate culture at Google.
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