Security Experts:

Google Bug Bounty Program Now Covers Platform Abuse

Google on Wednesday announced the expansion of its bug bounty program to include techniques that can be used to bypass the company’s abuse detection systems.

The Internet giant claims to have paid out over $12 million as part of its Vulnerability Reward Programs since 2010, including payouts for bug reports describing techniques for bypassing fraud, abuse and spam systems.

These types of reports have now officially been added to Google’s bug bounty program. The company says it’s prepared to pay up to $5,000 for high impact and high probability issues.

Google assesses probability based on the technical skills needed to conduct an attack, the possible motivators of an attack, and the likelihood of the flaw being discovered by a malicious actor.

“Reports that deal with potential abuse-related vulnerabilities may take longer to assess, because reviewing our current defense mechanisms requires investigating how a real life attack would take place and reviewing the impact and likelihood requires studying the type of motivations and incentives of abusers of the submitted attack scenario against one of our products,” Google said.

For example, a technique that allows an attacker to manipulate the rating score of a Google Maps listing by submitting a large volume of fake reviews without being detected by the company’s systems would qualify for a reward in the new platform abuse category. Researchers can also earn rewards for bypassing account recovery systems at scale, finding systems vulnerable to brute-force attacks, bypassing content use and sharing restrictions, or buying items from Google without paying.

“Valid reports tend to result in changes to the product’s code, as opposed to removal of individual pieces of content,” members of Google’s Trust & Safety team wrote in a blog post. “This program does not cover individual instances of abuse, such as the posting of content that violates our guidelines or policies, sending spam emails, or providing links to malware.”

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at 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.