Security Experts:

Google Triples Bounty for Linux Kernel Exploitation

Google is sweetening the pot for bug bounty researchers finding and exploiting privilege escalation flaws in the Linux kernel.

Over the next three months, Google plans to shell out US$31,337 for privilege escalation exploits using an already patched vulnerability, and $50,337 for a zero-day kernel flaw or a novel exploitation technique.

These amount to a tripling of Google’s bug bounty payments and are meant to incentivize hackers to share zero-days or mitigation bypasses for Linux kernel defects with major security implications.

“We hope the new rewards will encourage the security community to explore new Kernel exploitation techniques to achieve privilege escalation and drive quicker fixes for these vulnerabilities,” Google said in a note announcing the program.

[ READ: Google Paid Over $29 Million in Bug Bounty Rewards in 10 Years ]

Google said the base rewards for exploiting a publicly patched vulnerability is $31,337 (at most one exploit per vulnerability) and noted that the reward can go up to $50,337 USD in two cases:

  • If the vulnerability was otherwise unpatched in the Kernel (0day).
  • If the exploit uses a new attack or technique, as determined by Google.

Google is using a specialized CTF-style lab environment to manage the new bounties and noted that the easiest exploitation primitives are not available due to the hardening done on Container-Optimized OS. 

The company said the program complements the separate Android's vulnerability rewards, so exploits that work on Android could also be eligible for up to $250,000.  

Related: Google Paid Out $6.7 Million in Bug Bounty Rewards in 2020 

Related: Google Paid Over $29 Million in Bug Bounty Rewards in 10 Years 

Related: Google Awards $42,000 for Two Serious Chrome Vulnerabilities

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Ryan Naraine is Editor-at-Large at SecurityWeek and host of the popular Security Conversations podcast series. Ryan is a veteran cybersecurity strategist who has built security engagement programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., Bishop Fox and GReAT. He is a co-founder of Threatpost and the global SAS conference series. Ryan's past career as a security journalist included bylines at major technology publications including Ziff Davis eWEEK, CBS Interactive's ZDNet, PCMag and PC World. Ryan is a director of the Security Tinkerers non-profit, an advisor to early-stage entrepreneurs, and a regular speaker at security conferences around the world. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanaraine.