Security Experts:

PayPal Enters The Bug Bounty Game

Michael Barrett, PayPal's CISO, was initially against the idea of paying people who reported security problems properly. However, after seeing the success of the bug bounty programs launched by Mozilla, Google, and Facebook, he’s had a change of heart. So on Thursday, PayPal officially launched a bounty program of their own, becoming the first financial firm on the Web to do so in the process.

“The experience from other companies such as Facebook, Google, Mozilla, Samsung and others who have implemented similar programs has been very positive. I originally had reservations about the idea of paying researchers for bug reports, but I am happy to admit that the data has shown me to be wrong – it’s clearly an effective way to increase researchers attention on Internet-based services and therefore find more potential issues,” Barrett wrote on the PayPal blog.  

Unlike the other programs, PayPal’s is limited to four areas; Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), Cross-Site Request Forgeries (CSRF), SQL Injection, or Authentication Bypass. The amount paid per-bug is unknown, as the PayPal security team will make the final call on the amount.

The process for submitting bugs to the bounty program is the same submission process as before, all PayPal expects is that the researcher follow responsible disclosure guidelines, and that they provide enough time for the issue to be resolved before the flaw is made public. The full details are here.

The issue is the fact that while money is mentioned, the amount PayPal will offer is not. Researchers are unlikely to offer serious flaws to the service if all they can expect is $100 and a thank-you. The bounty announcement lacks even a baseline of what researchers can expect for their work.

Unfortunately, while PayPal has done something good by offering the program in the first place – especially given that they are a legit financial firm – the lack of information and clarity may have hurt the program before it started. Time will tell.

To date, programs such as the one offered by Google have paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to scores of researchers.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.