Google raises bug bounty to $20,000

Google has announced that it will be updating the rules for its bug bounty program and will start handing out bigger amounts to the researchers participating in it.

According to a blog post by Adam Mein and Michal Zalewski, two of Google’s Security Team employees, information about vulnerabilities that allow code execution on Google’s production systems will be rewarded with $20,000; SQL injection and equivalent vulnerabilities and certain types of information disclosure, authentication, and authorization bypass bugs will bring the submitters $10,000; and the $3,133.7 reward will be still handed out for XSS, XSRF, and other high-impact flaws in highly sensitive applications.

They also added that the likelihood for receiving a bigger reward is higher if the unearthed flaw affects a high risk applications such as Google Wallet, Search, Play, Mail or Code Hosting instead of a low risk one such as the Google Art Project.

Here is a helpful bug class/reward table (click on the screenshot to enlarge it):

Google considers its bounty program a success story. In little over a year, around 200 researchers have submitted over 780 qualifying vulnerability reports and have been rewarded $460,000 in total.

Speculations about the “real” reasons for this amount hike are to be expected and will likely center on the claim that Google was initially a little bit stingy with the rewards, but Zalewski says that “having an honest, no-nonsense, and highly responsive process like this… well, it works for a surprisingly high number of skilled researchers, even if you start with relatively modest rewards.”

“This puts an interesting spin on the conundrum of the black/gray market vulnerability trade: you can’t realistically outcompete all buyers of weaponized exploits, but you can make the issue a lot less relevant,” he commented on the helpfulness of the bug bounty program. “By having several orders of magnitude more people reporting bugs through a ‘white hat’ channel, you are probably making ‘underground’ vulnerabilities a lot harder to find, and fairly short-lived.”

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