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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

05:00 PM
Connect Directly

HackerOne Now Offers Bounties For New Bug Discovery Tools And Techniques

Tools are a more cost-efficient option for finding bugs in mature products, new research shows.

HackerOne, a coordinated vulnerability disclosure program run by people who built bug bounty programs at Microsoft, Google, and Facebook has broadened the scope of its Internet Bug Bounty program.

Starting this week, HackerOne will offer bounties to researchers who develop tools and techniques that aid in vulnerability discovery, and in determining the exploitability of such vulnerabilities.

Some examples of tools that qualify for a bounty include fuzzers, debuggers, and plug-ins that automates the discovery of security flaws in software products. Techniques that help determine how vulnerabilities can be exploited will also qualify for the bounty.

Security researchers who want to submit a tool or technique for bounty consideration will be asked to provide a publicly available link to their tool, an accompanying description of its capabilities, and examples of any bugs that were discovered or resolved using the tool or technique.

HackerOne’s decision to expand the scope of its bug bounty program was prompted by recent research it conducted into the economic forces behind the market for 0-day bugs.

Katie Moussouris, HackerOne’s chief policy officer and creator of the bug bounty program at Microsoft, worked with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard to understand the relationship between bug bounties and vulnerability research.

"What we did together with researchers from MIT and Harvard was to look at the different market levers that are available to defenders," so they don’t have to compete on price alone, she says.

"What we found was that certainly if you get more eyes to look at the problem, you can find more vulnerabilities," she says. "But that method of increasing the eyes works best for relatively young software, for the low-hanging fruit. For more mature software, we wanted to see what we could do to find those vulnerabilities that have been already found,” by attackers, Moussouris says.

Price alone is not the controlling factor in the vulnerability market, the researchers found. Bug bounties are an effective way to get researchers to unearth security vulnerabilities, especially in newer, less mature products, but tools that support vulnerability discovery offer a more efficient way to find previously unknown bugs in mature products.

The goal in using automated tools is to make it harder for attackers to stockpile undiscovered vulnerabilities. "You want to create a big overlap between what the offenders have and what the defenders have found," she says.

Groups and nation-state actors that want to use undiscovered vulnerabilities for malicious purposes typically are wiling and able to pay significantly more for an exploitable 0-day flaw than an entity that wants the same information in order to patch a flaw, Moussouris says.

As the stake have become higher, there are growing opportunities for security researchers to sell their discoveries to those who want to use it for offensive purposes and those who want to use it mitigate a security issue. Government actors, too, are increasingly in the market for bugs that can help them in law enforcement and surveillance activities.

In such a market, people looking to exploit a flaw for offense are usually able to outspend those who want bug details from a defense standpoint, Moussouris says. This is especially true for high-end, particularly critical bugs in mature products.

And when organizations are willing to pay large, six figure bounties for vulnerability disclosures, the results can be somewhat counter intuitive, she says. Researchers and developers who get paid substantially large rewards for bug discoveries have less incentive to actually work on fixing them. As a result, there is a logical price ceiling for bug bounties offered by people looking to use information to patch their products and for other defense purposes, she notes.

So the key to leveling the playing field is to use automated tools and techniques where possible to discover 0-day vulnerabilities that malicious actors and government may have already obtained through their ability to spend more for such bugs. By using automated tools to find and fix the same vulnerabilities that offense researchers have already found, organizations can try and deplete the available stockpile of 0-day threats and make it more costly for attackers to invest in such bugs, Moussouris says.

Tod Beardsley, engineering manager at Rapid7 said it is refreshing to see HackerOne take the lead on guiding and focusing exploit efforts on the "good guys."

"Organized crime is, by definition, organized," Beardsley says. "I know that the greater open source security research community can lack focus in the face of so many vulnerabilities being published on a daily basis."

Beardsley says it will be interesting to see how HackerOne and the Internet Bug Bounty program will help fund the development of tools and techniques for finding exploitable bugs.

"I feel like these efforts …will also help prioritize what kind of research is the most useful and fruitful, by making it easier to rediscover the secret vulnerabilities already being stockpiled today."

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Ninja
4/16/2015 | 7:20:23 AM
Good plan
I'm always impressed with companies that are happy to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to security. MEGA did a great job of improving its encryption platform by offering cash incentives to white hats that could help shore up its defences, I don't see why it couldn't play out nicely for other stoo. 
FluBot Malware's Rapid Spread May Soon Hit US Phones
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/28/2021
7 Modern-Day Cybersecurity Realities
Steve Zurier, Contributing Writer,  4/30/2021
How to Secure Employees' Home Wi-Fi Networks
Bert Kashyap, CEO and Co-Founder at SecureW2,  4/28/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
Primary Source Verification in VerityStream MSOW Solutions before 3.1.1 allows an anonymous internet user to discover Social Security Number (SSN) values via a brute-force attack on a (sometimes hidden) search field, because the last four SSN digits are part of the supported combination of search se...
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
Persistent Cross-site scripting vulnerability on Fork CMS version 5.8.2 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary Javascript code via the "navigation_title" parameter and the "title" parameter in /private/en/pages/add.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) in Fork-CMS before 5.8.2 allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of logged administrators.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
Unconstrained Web access to the device's private encryption key in the QR code pairing mode in the eWeLink mobile application (through 4.9.2 on Android and through 4.9.1 on iOS) allows a physically proximate attacker to eavesdrop on Wi-Fi credentials and other sensitive information by monitoring the...
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
A security vulnerability has been identified in the HPE Edgeline Infrastructure Manager, also known as HPE Edgeline Infrastructure Management Software, prior to version 1.22. The vulnerability could be remotely exploited to bypass remote authentication leading to execution of arbitrary commands, gai...