Crowd-Sourced Penetration Tests

Author: Peleus Uhley, Principal Scientist & Lead Security Strategist

Chris Parkerson
Mar 4 · 5 min read

Bug bounties, also known as crowd sourced penetration tests, are becoming increasingly popular. New programs are announced every month. At NullCon this year, there was an entire track dedicated to the topic where vendors and researchers could meet. For a security researcher, there are a ton of options for participating ranging from the self-run programs, such as Google’s, to participating on consolidated platforms like BugCrowd and HackerOne. However, for the vendor, the path into bug bounties can be somewhat complex and the most significant benefits are not always obvious. Here are some tips on how to get more from your bug bounty.

Preparation

If you have never done a bounty before, starting with short-term, private bounties will allow you to experience a few hiccups in a controlled situation. Be sure that you have planned out how to issue accounts to a large number of users and that the environment works when testing from outside your corporate environment. Try testing from home just to make sure it works.

Bounty guidelines

Thematic issues

Critical bugs

Variant testing

Red Team/Blue Team

A crowd-sourced penetration test can change up the routine you have established for finding issues. Like any change in routine, there can be a few challenges at first. However, when done well, they can provide a vendor with insights that they may have never obtained through the existing status quo. These are not a replacement for traditional consultants. Rather, the new insights into the platform can help you re-focus the consultants more effectively to get a higher ROI.

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