Researchers praise Facebook for paying bug bounties

"Great start," says Charlie Miller, proponent of 'No Free Bugs' movement

Facebook's move today to follow Google, Mozilla and Hewlett-Packard in offering bounties for bugs got a unanimous thumbs up from security researchers.

A noted vulnerability researcher who has pushed a "No More Free Bugs" concept applauded Facebook's decision.

"It's a great start," said Charlie Miller, a four-time winner at the Pwn2Own hacking contest, and with others, a proponent for researcher rewards. "Moving from paying zero to paying anything is probably the hardest hurdle for companies to get over."

Miller is a principal research consultant for the Denver-based security consulting company Accuvant.

Earlier today, Facebook announced that it will offer a base reward of $500 for each security vulnerability outsiders report via a new portal. Bounties may be higher for significant flaws, but the company has not said what its top-dollar award will be.

Several other bounty programs pay researchers considerably more.

Although HP TippingPoint -- the largest vendor-independent buyer of vulnerabilities -- does not publicly disclose the amounts it pays researchers, others do.

Google, for example, pays up to $3,133 for flaws reported in its Chrome browser and websites and online services. So far this year, Google has laid out over $90,000 to dozens of researchers for scores of vulnerabilities.

Mozilla also pays bounties as high as $3,000 for vulnerabilities in Firefox and several of its online applications, including its Bugzilla bug-tracking database.

Although Facebook's payment rate is significantly less than Google's, Mozilla's or TippingPoint's, the social networking site made a smart decision, said another well-known security researcher.

"The dollar amounts may be smaller than other markets for security research, but bounty programs lead to a better relationship with the security community and improve the security of the service much faster than a similar resource spend in a traditional security audit," argued HD Moore, the chief security officer at Rapid7 and the creator of the open-source Metasploit penetration-testing toolkit.

"Researchers are provided with a sanctioned path to test the security of the service and the provider receives a lot of security analysis for a small cash outlay," Moore added.

Other researchers also supported Facebook's entry into the bugs-for-money territory.

"Taking a proactive stance to avoid possible future exploits seems like money well spent," said Cameron Camp, a researcher at ESET, a San Diego antivirus vendor. "It also sounds like it's a potential recruiting tool with a little bit of a kicker to sweeten it for hackers to stay away from the 'dark side.'"

Mozilla and Google chimed in as well.

"It is great that Facebook is following our lead and launching a security bounty program," a company spokeswoman said in an email reply to a request for comment. "The program has been a real success for us and we're happy to see other vendors adopting similar programs."

Earlier, Google told the IDG News Service -- like Computerworld, operated by IDG -- that its bounty program has also been a boon. "We're very happy with the success of our vulnerability reward program so far ... and [we] have seen a variety of interesting bugs," a Google spokesman said in an email to the news service.

Several prominent companies, however, including major operating system makers Apple and Microsoft, do not monetarily reward researchers.

Microsoft, for instance, has repeatedly said it believes the public recognition it provides is enough. The company's security advisories credit researchers who have submitted bugs in Windows and its other products.

But Miller sees it differently.

"I wish other companies whose products we depend on, like Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, etcetera, were willing to put their wallet where their mouths are, too," said Miller. "No more free bugs!"

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags GoogleFacebookHewlett-PackardmozillaWeb 2.0 and Web AppsMalware and Vulnerabilities

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

PC World Evaluation Team Review - MSI GT75 TITAN

"I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it."

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?