What Is a Security Bounty and How Does It Work?


Cybercrimes are on the rise and getting more sophisticated. If your software company isn’t taking cyber threats seriously enough, you’re putting your data and your customers’ data in harm’s way. The world’s largest tech companies know the risk cybercrime poses to their data, reputations, and bottom lines. That’s why many have implemented a security bounty program—also known as a bug bounty program—to identify vulnerabilities.  

Never heard of a security bounty? eSquared has your back. Here’s everything you need to know about bounty programs and how you can implement one at your software company to improve your software, protect your data, and prevent costly cyber-attacks.   

What is a security bounty? 

A security bounty is a payment software companies make to ethical hackers who identify and report vulnerabilities in their software. Security bounty programs promote an open, transparent, and responsible culture around identifying and fixing software vulnerabilities. They’re proactive, predictive, and help software companies fix vulnerabilities their dev teams may have missed. 

Many of the world’s most trusted tech companies have instituted security bounty programs to help them identify and fix vulnerabilities in their programs. For example, eCommerce giant Shopify has paid out more than $1.5 million in security bounties to ethical hackers. The company offers up to $30,000 per critical vulnerability hackers find. You can learn more about their program (or try your hand at finding and reporting a bug) on their bug bounty webpage 

Why do software companies use security bounties? 

Security bounty programs are valuable components of a software company’s cybersecurity program. With cybercrime is on the rise, these attacks can be devastating to a company’s financials as well as its reputation with the public.  

To prevent cyber-attacks, companies welcome ethical hackers to test the cyber defenses of their software. The cost of paying out bounties to ethical hackers is much less than the cost of repairing the damage of a cyber-attack. When ethical hackers find a vulnerability, companies can take steps to fix it before a bad actor can exploit it. 

How can you test your own software with a security bounty? 

Setting up a security bounty program is a smart move for most software companies. If you’re interested in setting up a program at your company, you first need to determine the rules of engagement for ethical hackers. Define your policies for reporting a vulnerability and proving a hack. Outline your payment structure, especially if you plan to offer higher payouts for severe vulnerabilities. Be sure to include a responsible disclosure policy that guarantees hackers will not be prosecuted for hacking your system in pursuit of a bug bounty.  

Once your policy is in place, make sure you have the resources to fix bugs as hackers find them. Most companies have a dedicated team that triages fixes for vulnerabilities ethical hackers find through security bounty programs. If you’d rather not manage your bug bounty program yourself, eSquared can help you decide which third-party partnership would be the best fit for you.  

A security bounty program is an important part of a software company’s cybersecurity program. While it does not replace regular scans, tests, and maintenance, a bug bounty program can help companies identify vulnerabilities before they become real problems. For more information on security bounty programs and how you can implement one at your company, get in touch with the eSquared team today.