Security Experts:

Two White Hats Earn Over $1 Million via Bug Bounty Programs

Bug bounty platform HackerOne says two of its members have each earned more than $1 million by helping organizations find and fix vulnerabilities in their systems.

While many white hat hackers don’t make much money from bug bounty programs, there are some who have dedicated a lot of time to finding vulnerabilities and they have managed to earn significant rewards.

The first to earn over $1 million through HackerOne-based bug bounty programs was 19-year-old Santiago Lopez from Argentina. Lopez, a self-taught hacker who uses the online moniker “try_to_hack,” signed up for HackerOne in 2015 and he has reported over 1,600 flaws, including to Twitter and Verizon Media.

“He was first inspired to get started after seeing the movie Hackers and learned to hack by watching free online tutorials and reading popular blogs. In 2015, at 16-years-old, he signed up for HackerOne and earned his first bounty of $50 months later. He chose his alias ‘try_to_hack’ to keep himself motivated — he was determined to try to hack companies regardless of whether he knew he could succeed,” HackerOne said of Lopez. “He keeps the name today to remind him of how he started as a bug bounty hacker. Over the past three years of hacking after school and now full-time, he has earned nearly forty times the average software engineer salary in Buenos Aires on bug bounties alone.”

The second HackerOne member to earn over $1 million – just a few days after Lopez passed this milestone – is Mark Litchfield, aka “mlitchfield.” He has helped companies such as Dropbox, Yelp, Venmo, Starbucks, Shopify and Rockstar Games address roughly 900 security holes.

HackerOne on Friday published its 2019 Hacker Report, which shows that over 300,000 white hat hackers have registered on the platform and they have earned a total of over $42 million in bounties for more than 100,000 vulnerabilities they have submitted.

In 2018, hackers earned $19 million through HackerOne, which is nearly as much as in all the previous years combined. India, the United States, Russia, Pakistan and the United Kingdom account for 51% of the researchers taking part in bug bounty programs, but the company noted that hackers from African countries have also increasingly signed up.

The largest bounties have come from the US and Canada, followed by the UK, Germany, Russia and Singapore.

A vast majority of the hackers are under the age of 35 – 47% are in the 18-24 age range – and 81% claim to have learned to hack on their own. Hacking websites is the speciality of 70% of HackerOne members, followed by APIs (6.8%) and data storage systems (3.7%).

Related: Facebook Paid Out $1.1 Million in Bug Bounties in 2018

Related: Google Paid Out $3.4 Million for Vulnerabilities Reported in 2018

Related: Oath Paid Out $5 Million in Bug Bounties in 2018

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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.