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What is a Bug Bounty?

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Bug bounty hunting is quickly becoming one of the most popular and effective ways for companies and governments to identify server vulnerabilities and improve security. Some of the largest companies in the world, including Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, now use ethical hackers or bug bounty hunters, as they are known. But what exactly is a bug bounty hunter, and how much money can you earn?

How does bug bounty hunting work?

The term hacker is normally associated with something very negative. On the other hand, an ethical hacker or bug bounty hunter is effectively on the other side, identifying cybersecurity vulnerabilities and helping to improve systems security. Bug bounty hunters are the good guys of the hacker world. These days, bug bounty hunting is growing fast, and there are many platforms to choose from. In fact, the United States Department of Defense has significantly expanded its bug bounty program to include websites, networks, industrial control systems, and frequency-based communication.

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One of the largest bug bounty companies is Bugcrowd, a crowdsourced security platform founded in 2011. Currently, one of the highest bounties ever offered by Bugcrowd is with ExpressVPN’s new incentive offering the first person to find and demonstrate a security-critical bug on their VPN serve technology a bonus of $100,000. These incentives aim to identify weaknesses in web applicants, systems, servers, etc. Bug bounty programs like this are basically a security audit and don’t just highlight weaknesses but also work to demonstrate a company’s high level of confidence in their security and privacy protection offered to users of a service.

How to earn money as a bug bounty hunter

The ever-increasing risk of security breaches means has led to the opportunity of increasing reward potentials. An effective bounty hunter can earn a full-time income hunting for bugs. Between 2022-2021 Microsoft awarded 341 researchers over $13 million to identify security vulnerability, the biggest single reward being $200,000. A company will create a bounty as an incentive for an independent bug bounty hunter to identify security weaknesses in their systems. If they then recognize and report valid breaches, the companies pay them the bounty sum. This helps companies and government bodies to improve their systems and discover any issues before a genuine “bad guy” hacker does.

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There are some challenges to bug bounty hunting, and possibly the most challenging aspect is the significant amount of time you could spend searching for bugs without finding anything. The intense nature of ethical hacking could easily lead to burnout. Keep in mind you only get paid when you find a bug.

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Other than the potential financial rewards, the flexibility and remote working opportunities are great benefits of bug bounty hunting. Although this is a great remote working opportunity, there are also many opportunities to collaborate at hacking events, either in person or online. To become a bug hunter, you don’t need any qualifications. However, extensive knowledge of web and mobile technology is vital. It is clear that bug bounty programs have become an essential step in ensuring company security.

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James Musoba
James Musoba
Studying Africa's startup and technology scene. I always look forward to discovering new exciting inventions and vibrant entrepreneurs.

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