Security Experts:

Invitation-Only Bug Bounty Programs Becoming More Popular: Bugcrowd

Crowdsourced security testing company Bugcrowd has released its inaugural “State of the Bug Bounty Report,” a study that provides a detailed analysis of the bug bounty economy.

The study is based on data collected between the first quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2015 from a total of 37,000 vulnerability reports submitted by researcher to the 166 bug bounty programs running on the Bugcrowd platform.

The report shows that an increasing number of organizations have come to realize that running bug bounty programs can be beneficial. The number of programs started in the first half of 2015 is more than double compared to the same period of the previous year.

However, if at first most organizations chose public vulnerability rewards programs, invitation-only programs are now launched more frequently than public programs. Experts believe this trend is due to the better signal-to-noise ratio of invitation-only programs.

Bugcrowd has pointed out that public programs have a signal-to-noise ratio of 18 percent, while invite-only programs have a ratio of 36 percent. More precisely, in the case of public programs, roughly 40 percent of submissions are duplicate and 35 percent are invalid. Only 26 percent of submissions are marked invalid in the case of invitation-only programs.

A perfect example of why public bug bounty programs are “noisier” is the top Bugcrowd submitted, a Pakistani researcher who has over 1,000 submissions, but an acceptance rate of only 4% and a total average reward per valid submission of $20.

Almost 18,000 researchers from 147 countries have signed up to Bugcrowd. More than half of them are from the United States (33 percent) and India (25 percent). These two countries also dominate the paid submissions chart.

Experts have identified a total of 729 high-priority vulnerabilities, with 175 bugs classified as “critical.” An average of 4.39 high-to-critical impact vulnerabilities have been found per program, including remote code execution, SQL injection, authentication bypass, server side request forgery (SSRF), XML external entity (XXE) processing, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and stored cross-site scripting (XSS).

Unsurprisingly, the type of vulnerability that was most discovered was XSS, such flaws accounting for 20 percent of all reports.

Researchers who participated in Bugcrowd bug bounty programs got paid for roughly one in every five submission, with an average paycheck of $1,279. Companies who run programs on the platform have paid out a total of $724,839.

“The data pulled from our sizable community demonstrates the impressive economics behind bug bounty programs, for both sides of the market,” said Casey Ellis, CEO of Bugcrowd. “As the power of crowdsourced security testing continues to grow and evolve, it’s critical to maintain transparency and open communication between researchers and organizations into how vulnerabilities are reported, patched and rewarded, and to that end we're very pleased to be releasing this report.”

Bugcrowd’s inaugural State of Bug Bounty Report is available online.

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Eduard Kovacs is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.