Glitch busters: Indians are acing it as bug bounty hunters

It felt like profitable the lottery, says internet developer and moral hacker Sameer Rao, of the primary bug bounty he ever collected. Web bug bounty hunters scan via an internet site or purposes program to discover a bug (or inconsistency within the code), level it out to the homeowners of the app, and receives a commission.

Rao’s first win was in 2016. He’d been invited to affix a WhatsApp group via an online hyperlink, and observed a vulnerability. “I noticed that the bug might be exploited to inject a dangerous code into the net software, permitting the attacker to steal delicate and personal knowledge.”

Rao alerted Fb, which owns WhatsApp; the issue was mounted. And, similar to that, Rao discovered himself $3,000 richer.

Tech giants similar to Google, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, Yahoo, in addition to Ola, PayTM, Mobikwik and Yatra, all run public bounty searching programmes. Primarily, they invite coders, techies, moral hackers—and anybody with the flexibility to identify a flaw — to check their numerous on-line software program for bugs and report any that they discover. The main target tends to be on safety and privateness vulnerabilities.


  • Yearly, Fb compiles a listing of hall-of-famers — hackers who’ve recognized legitimate, high-impact bugs of their numerous apps — FB, WhatsApp, Instagram and so forth.
  • India routinely options because the nation to which most bounties are paid.
  • At present within the No 5 place on the Fb checklist is Laxman Muthiyah, a Chennai resident who not too long ago hunted down two bugs on Instagram with account takeover vulnerabilities, for which he was paid a complete of $40,000 by Fb.
  • In line with the Hacker Powered Safety Report 2018 by HackerOne, India earned 10% ($2.Three million) of bounties rewarded by tech corporations in that 12 months, solely second to the US, which earned 19% of the whole $23.5 million payout worldwide.

Fb runs one of many largest such operations, with its Bug Bounty Program (BBP) handing out as much as $30,000 per bug reported, since 2011.

Smaller corporations that may’t afford to run their very own packages use mediator platforms similar to HackerOne, to attach with exterior contributors.

The way it works

A lot of the moral hackers serving to corporations establish vulnerabilities for a price use and typically modify open-source instruments out there on the web. There are completely different instruments that assist monitor various kinds of bugs.

One they’ve recognized a vulnerability, they ship the corporate a type of map of what they discovered, and the way they discovered it. The corporate sometimes patches the bug and asks the hacker to try to bypass it once more. As soon as the problem is resolved, the corporate decides on the bounty to be paid, relying on the potential impression the bug may need had on customers.

In 2018, Fb introduced that it resolved over 700 points (out of 17,800 submitted stories) via its BBP, and paid out a complete of $1.1million.

Yearly, Fb compiles a listing of hall-of-famers — hackers who’ve recognized the very best variety of legitimate, high-impact bugs.

New rollouts and regular updates mean the companies will never be able to track all their coding issues themselves. Every update means a possibility of new bugs, and so the hunt never ends.

New rollouts and common updates imply the businesses won’t ever be capable to monitor all their coding points themselves. Each replace means a chance of recent bugs, and so the hunt by no means ends.

“It is vitally prestigious to be on that checklist,” says Shubham Bhamare, a 21-year-old who runs his personal IT firm in Nashik. He has been paid about $13,500 by Fb since he began final 12 months, and is No 25 on the checklist for 2019.

Corridor of fame

Most bug bounty hunters have day jobs in internet growth. After hours, they do their back-end trawling for vulnerabilities. “I hunt solely on Fb, and spend about three hours a day combing via its numerous purposes,” says Rao. “If I discover one thing attention-grabbing, I spend the remainder of the night time chasing the bug to its root.”

Among the many few full-time bug hunters is Bhavuk Jain, 27, a former cellular app developer from Delhi who earned his first bug bounty in 2017, when he discovered a personal knowledge disclosure vulnerability on Yahoo. “A couple of 12 months in the past, I give up my job and began doing this full time,” he says. “I’ve been making considerably extra from bug bounties than I used to be making as a cellular app developer.”

What subsequent

You may assume that the extra bugs recognized, the less there can be left to seek out. However each replace means a chance of recent bugs, and so the work is unending.

Tech corporations have discovered the bounty-hunters so helpful that they’ve now begun to pre-release new merchandise for the hacking neighborhood to check, earlier than releasing them to the general public. As an illustration, Fb is at the moment working a bug bounty program to check its new cryptocurrency program, Libra.

New rollouts and common updates imply the businesses won’t ever be capable to monitor all their coding points themselves, says Rao. “There’ll at all times be bugs to seek out. And so the hunt by no means stops.”

First Printed: Sep 21, 2019 21:55 IST


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