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 //

Vulnerability Management

8/6/2019
07:00 PM
50%
50%

US Air Force Bug Bounty Program Nets 54 Flaws for $123,000

The Air Force brought together 50 vetted hackers to find the vulnerabilities in the latest bug-bounty program hosted by a branch of the US military.

A six-week bug-hunting contest netted the US Air Force information on 54 security vulnerabilities in its Common Computing Environment (CCE), a branch-wide cloud platform that aims to serve up online applications, program management firm Bugcrowd said on August 6.

The bug bounty program, in which 50 vetted hackers participated, resulted in $123,000 in prizes, or an average of $2,460 per participant. The number and severity of the issues reported to the US Air Force show the strength of the crowdsourced model, says Casey Ellis, Bugcrowd's chief technology officer and founder.

"If you got people building software, building environments, they are also going to make mistakes, and that is the stuff you want to catch and provide feedback on," he says. "This is about making hackers part of the solution and figuring out how to engage them in activities for government cybersecurity."

Bug bounties have become much more popular as an inexpensive way of finding vulnerabilities in specific products and services. In addition to the US Air Force, every branch of the US military has run significant bounty programs against some part of their information infrastructure. In November 2016, the US Army launched a "Hack the Army" event, netting 118 valid vulnerability reports from 371 eligible participants. And, at last year's DEF CON conference in Las Vegas, the US Marine Corps had a live nine-hour hacking event, in which it paid out $80,000 in prize money for 75 vulnerabilities.

As the US government moves toward increasing its use of the cloud, the military is looking to test the security of its cloud infrastructure as well. The CCE is the US Air Force's cloud-based platform that currently hosts 21 applications as of April, according to the Air Force. The military branch has spent $136 million on the cloud platform since 2015 but has saved on operations and management issues, according to statements from the US Air Force.

As an initial validation to an organization that might be new to crowdsourced security, the bug bounty program was a success, says Ellis. The next step it to regularly use bug bounties to systematically improve infrastructure security.

"We are at the point, after initial validation, where we are as an industry is figuring out how to incorporate feedback from the hacker community into how we build our stuff securely," Ellis says. "That is going to be different for every organization."

In 2018, bug bounty programs had another growth year. Both Bugcrowd and HackerOne announced record-setting revenues. HackerOne paid more than $19 million for information on more than 100,000 vulnerabilities in the software and systems of its clients. Bugcrowd helped its clients launch 29% more programs in 2018, and had 92% more submissions, according to its "Priority One: The State of Crowdsourced Security in 2019" report.

The average payout from the US Air Force program was $2,460, very close to the average bounty of $2,442 for vulnerabilities in 2018, according to Bugcrowd's report. The most lucrative bounties, more than $8,550 per bug, were paid for vulnerabilities found in Internet of Things devices. Overall, Bugcrowd found that the bounty for vulnerabilities increased 83% in 2018 compared with the previous year.

"While the vulnerabilities in IoT devices — refrigerators and DVRs — capture our attention for their novelty and fear factor, they are still and by far outnumbered by vulnerabilities in web applications," the company stated in the report. "In fact, web application vulnerabilities have always been the top submitted vulnerabilities across our programs and correspondingly account for the highest percentage of awards paid."

While the US Air Force's bug bounty program seems impressive, the rewards from such programs tend to benefit relatively few people. Because there were 50 researchers, the average researcher only saw a single reward. In reality, the majority of the prizes likely went to a handful of researchers. An academic paper published last year found that bug bounties tend to have skewed rewards

While every military branch is now on board, getting to this point required overcoming significant hurdles, Ellis says. "The idea that the DoD and the Air Force would accept the help of the external hacker community — that's not an intuitive thing," he says.

Related Content

 

Black Hat USA returns to Las Vegas with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
christie446
50%
50%
christie446,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/6/2019 | 10:32:47 PM
woa
it very funny
Commentary
How SolarWinds Busted Up Our Assumptions About Code Signing
Dr. Jethro Beekman, Technical Director,  3/3/2021
News
'ObliqueRAT' Now Hides Behind Images on Compromised Websites
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  3/2/2021
News
Attackers Turn Struggling Software Projects Into Trojan Horses
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/26/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: George has not accepted that the technology age has come to an end.
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
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2009-20001
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-07
An issue was discovered in MantisBT before 2.24.5. It associates a unique cookie string with each user. This string is not reset upon logout (i.e., the user session is still considered valid and active), allowing an attacker who somehow gained access to a user's cookie to login as them.
CVE-2020-28466
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-07
This affects all versions of package github.com/nats-io/nats-server/server. Untrusted accounts are able to crash the server using configs that represent a service export/import cycles. Disclaimer from the maintainers: Running a NATS service which is exposed to untrusted users presents a heightened r...
CVE-2021-27364
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-07
An issue was discovered in the Linux kernel through 5.11.3. drivers/scsi/scsi_transport_iscsi.c is adversely affected by the ability of an unprivileged user to craft Netlink messages.
CVE-2021-27365
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-07
An issue was discovered in the Linux kernel through 5.11.3. Certain iSCSI data structures do not have appropriate length constraints or checks, and can exceed the PAGE_SIZE value. An unprivileged user can send a Netlink message that is associated with iSCSI, and has a length up to the maximum length...
CVE-2021-27363
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-07
An issue was discovered in the Linux kernel through 5.11.3. A kernel pointer leak can be used to determine the address of the iscsi_transport structure. When an iSCSI transport is registered with the iSCSI subsystem, the transport's handle is available to unprivileged users via the sysfs file system...