Google Raises Bug Bounty To £12,394 Per Flaw

Google continues to encourage bug hunters after it increased the amount of money it is willing to pay to researchers who find security holes in its products.

Now people who find flaws or bugs – and report them to Google rather than sell them on the market – can get up to $20,000 (£12,394), a significant jump over the money that was being rewarded before as part of the Vulnerability Reward Program.

Fault Discovery

Google has had the bounty program in place since November 2010, and according to an 23 April post on the company’s Online Security Blog, has paid out about $460,000 (£285 076) for more than 780 vulnerability reports “that span across the hundreds of Google-developed services, as well as the software written by 50 or so companies that we have acquired.”

The $20,000 would be a significant increase over the previous maximum payout of $3,133 (£1,941) that Google announced last summer.

“We’re confident beyond any doubt the program has made Google users safer,” Adam Mein and Michal Zalewski, members of Google’s security team, wrote in the blog post.

The new maximum payout also comes with updated rules, Mein and Zalewski said. Getting the $20,000 will mean finding malware that would enable remote code execution on Google’s product systems, according to the new rules. People will receive $10,000 for SQL injection and equivalent vulnerabilities and for “certain types of information disclosure, authentication and authorisation bypass bugs,” they said.

The maximum for XSS, XSRF and other high-impact flaws in sensitive applications will still fetch up to $3.133.

Risk Equals Money

Google also is rewarding more money for vulnerabilities found on products and services that pose the greatest risk of exposure for the company’s customers.

“For example, while every flaw deserves appropriate attention, we are likely to issue a higher reward for a cross-site scripting vulnerability in Google Wallet than one in Google Art Project, where the potential risk to user data is significantly smaller,” Mien and Zalewski wrote.

There are some exceptions, according to the program’s rules. Client applications, such as Android, Picasa and Google Desktop, are not included, though they may be in the future. In addition, for companies bought by Google, for the first six months after the acquisition, those companies’ vulnerabilities will not qualify for rewards.

Paying bounties to security researchers and hackers to find security holes – and help fix them – is not unusual among software vendors. Google has been doing it for more than a year, and Adobe started a similar program in late 2010.

In addition, Google has created a contest called Pwnium that challenges hacker and security pros to find flaws in its products. Last month, Google paid out tens of thousands of dollars – including $60,000 (£37,180) to two people – for finding flaws in its Chrome browser.

However, the money Google is willing to pay out to people to find flaws pales in comparison to what those vulnerabilities would fetch on the open market. In an article in, some hacking techniques can fetch more than $100,000 (£61,973) from government agencies, which then use the technique to secretly spy on system users.

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Jeffrey Burt

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

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