Google Bug Hunters — a new platform to keep billions safe

The story of this three year project at Stink Studios

Simon Cheadle
4 min readAug 23, 2021

Google’s Vulnerability Reward Program was a first-of-its-kind initiative to incentivise developers to report bugs in Google code. The initiative grew quickly; over the last 10 years it has awarded over $30 million and kept billions of Google users safe.

The Google Security team partnered with us at Stink Studios to reimagine and rebuild the platform from the ground up.

Our task was to make the platform future-facing, create a community, and unify all their other vulnerability initiatives — Google, Android, Abuse, Chrome and Google Play.

Reimagined as ‘Google Bug Hunters’, our ambition was to create the ultimate Vulnerability program, and make something that kept the internet safer for the next coming decade.

A New Name — The initiative deserved a clearer name, and a bold new look-and-feel that would resonate with our audience. Google Bug Hunters created a greater sense of community and made it really clear what the platform did.

A New Identity — We designed a new logo and identity inspired by coding terminals and fighter pilot head-up displays.

This identity has been applied to event spaces, membership cards, and merchandise to reward the most prolific Bug Hunters

A New Design — Working within Google’s Material Design framework, we redesigned the platform to increase usability, and encourage exploration and community.

We stepped away from Google’s usual white colour palette and designed the site in Dark Mode in a nod to computer programming.

As part of the rebrand we also developed illustrations and animations used throughout the site; visual flourishes that nod to programming culture.

Building Generative Bugs — Every bug that’s successfully reported to the platform is given its own bespoke bug visualisation.

Using a generative design system, the bug is automatically created based on a number of key factors: Product, Severity, Scale of importance and Category of Bug.

Some early bug tests and explorations

These bugs become badges of honour for Security Researchers, and are proudly displayed on a user’s profile.

Building a Community — Bug Hunting is highly competitive. Many users aim to find the most complex bugs, and gain the largest rewards. We developed a leaderboard to showcase successful bug-hunts, as well as profile the top performers on the platform.

Each Bug on the leaderboard links out to its own report, so that users can learn from one another.

An example of a Bug Hunt Report

To further celebrate and incentivise Bug Hunters, we designed 100s of Awards that users can claim for their profile.

Some of the awards badges we created and designed

Inspiring Future Hunters — As part of the redesign, we also built The Bug Hunter University. This is a space for upcoming hunters to learn from other successful reports, and for prominent developers to share their learnings with the rest of the community.

The Result — Three years in the making, Google Bug Hunters was picked up by hundreds of Development News sites across the world, tweeted by Google’s CEO, and most importantly embraced by Developers and established Bug Hunters.

TL;DR — We made a goddamn Google Platform.

Google Client: Jan Keller, Eduardo Vela
Producers: Kate Sutherland, Sian Mulligan, Tania Zemljak
UX: Sam Steele
Strategy and Research: Ally Tyler
Creative Director: Simon Cheadle
Creative: Duncan Temple
Design: Slav Vitaslov, Hugo Ferradás, David Fiz
Dev: Andrew Sellers, Emiel van Betsbrugge, Martin Bevc, Arpad Ray
Motion: Mohammed Ubaidah, Seb Camilleri