Bug Bounty Programs for Beginners
Everything you Need to Know!
In the last few years, different companies including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and others started to offer significant rewards for helping them uncover vulnerabilities in their own websites or software.
In this article, you will learn all the information that helps you to start as Bug Bounty Hunter and what are the necessary tools you need to learn.
Also, we will discuss some of the prerequisites skills, training, and certification in the correct order, and how things work in the real world.
What is a Bug Bounty Program?
According to Wikipedia:
“A bug bounty program is a deal offered by many websites, organizations, and software developers by which individuals can receive recognition and compensation for reporting bugs, especially those pertaining to security exploits and vulnerabilities”.
Bug bounty programs allow hackers to find bugs in their digital assets so the company can fix them before the public hears about them, in order to prevent incidents of widespread abuse.
Why Launching a Bug Bounty Program?
Some would ask why companies resort to bounty programs instead of hiring security professionals! Well, the answer is simple! Some of them have their own security team but when we are talking about big corporations like Facebook, Google, etc, they launch and develop a lot of softwares, domains, and products continuously.
With this amount of targets, it becomes impossible for the security team no matter how big it is, to test all these targets. So bounty programs can be an efficient way for companies to continuously test all of their digital assets.
Plus, bug bounty programs encourage security researchers to work ethically for these companies by acknowledgment/bounties. That’s why it makes more sense for large companies to use bug bounty programs.
However, for small budget companies using a bug bounty program might not be their best option as they might receive a lot of vulnerabilities that they can’t afford using their limited resources.
A Bug Bounty Program can be Public or Private:
These are programs that are not published to the public. This means that hackers can only see these programs when they receive specific invitations to hack on them.
When programs become public, they open themselves up to report submissions from the entire hacker community. This means that all hackers on HackerOne are given rights to hack your program.
And there are other companies like Google and Facebook that manage their own programs. So if you believe you have found a security issue you contact them directly without a third party in between.
How to Become a Bug Bounty Hunter?
Bug Bounty Hunters are individuals who know the nuts and bolts of cybersecurity and are well versed in finding flaws and vulnerabilities. There are various bug bounty platforms that will pay them in case they have found vulnerabilities in applications and software.
Definitely, before finding bugs in any platforms, you need to understand how web applications work and understanding the architecture of these apps.
Also, being comfortable with at least one of these scripting languages: python, bash, or go, will add great value to creating your own tools that will help you to achieve a specific goal that other tools won’t do for you.
Skills Required to Become a Bug Bounty Hunter
Some of the key areas to focus on that are the famous OWASP Top 10 which are (according to the last update in 2021):
- Broken access control
- Cryptographic failures
- Insecure design
- Security misconfiguration
- Vulnerable and outdated components
- Identification and Authentication Failures
- Software and Data Integrity Failures
- Security Logging and Monitoring Failures
- Server-Side Request Forgery
Occupying with the knowledge of the previously mentioned vulnerabilities you can start practice on platforms like:
Also, reading other reports and POCs that other security researchers have shared with the community will help you understand the tactics behind the exploitation and the common testing techniques.
Education & Training in Bug Bounty
You need to know the basics and the concepts of information security. You can accomplish that by watching free youtube courses like Eng. Ebrahim Hegazy course (In Arabic) or other researchers that help the community grow.
You can also enroll in different web application security training like the one provided by CyberTalents “Certified Web App Penetration Tester” or other well-known courses like SANS, or E-learn Security.
And if you like reading books, there are great ones that will help you understand the concepts in depth like:
- Web app hackers' handbook
- Real-World Bug Hunting: A Field Guide to Web Hacking
- Bug Bounty Bootcamp: The Guide to Finding and Reporting Web Vulnerabilities
- Web hacking 101
- Mastering modern web pen testing
- Mobile application hacker's handbook
You can also watch other security researchers' methodologies to build your own one. You can find some professionals sharing their experiences so keep updated!
Bug Hunter Toolkit
You can use your preferred version of a web browser “Google Chrome / Firefox” and you can weaponize it with some addons as well to make your testing journey easier.
Also, getting comfortable with the developer tools in the browser will save much time to analyze requests and how the application interacts with the user. You can watch this video to get an overview of the power of the dev tools.
A proxy acts as a gateway between you and the internet Using a proxy will trap all the traffic between your browser and the target website.
This will help you manipulate the request before being sent and watch all the requests made to the target website when you perform any action.
The most famous proxy tools are Burp Suite and ZAP Proxy.
Using Tools blindly will not help you understand how it works so don’t run any tool without knowing how it collects that data and how it behaves. Using automated tools will save you hard work and a lot of time, especially in the enumeration phase.
You need tools to perform subdomain enumeration like Sublist3r, Subfinder, assetfinder, and others.
Then, you can use a tool like EyeWitness to take screenshots of the subdomains you have found to check if they are up and what is running on maybe admin panel or unintended information is publicly available. This is just a quick check you still need to visit the results manually.
After knowing the scope you are approaching, (scope varies from one program to another so you need to read it) you can start testing the web/mobile application functions and identify if there are valid vulnerabilities you can report.
Sometimes you will need other tools/scanners to speed up the process of fuzzing parameters for some vulnerabilities. But you should know how the tool is working as we have mentioned before so you don’t get blocked due to the huge number of requests.
Top Bug Bounty Platforms
Now, after discussing many topics and tools, this is the right time to talk about the bug bounty platform itself here is a list of the well-known platforms that offer many programs.
HackerOne is the most famous platform as a lot of companies like IBM, LinkedIn, Uber, and others have their programs on that platform.
Bugcrowd connects companies and their applications to a crowd of tens of thousands of security researchers to identify critical software vulnerabilities.
Powered by Bugcrowd’s platform, companies of all sizes can run both private and public bounty programs to efficiently test their applications and reward valid vulnerabilities.
Intigriti was Founded in 2016. Intigriti sets out to conquer the limitations of traditional security testing.
Today, the company is widely recognized for its innovative approach to security testing, impacting both customers’ security awareness and security researchers’ lives.
The Synack Red Team is a private freelance security research team that spans 6 continents and over 80 countries. Comprised some of the most sought-after security researchers in the world.
The Synack Red Team provides web applications, mobile applications, and host infrastructure penetration testing engagements.
A bug bounty platform that comes with personalized support and automation tools to facilitate your scale-up and drive agility. YesWeHack provides training to empower your staff by connecting them with world-class experts.
Also, they have a rank system for bug bounty hunters that increases the competition of the security researchers by using their hacking skills ethically.
YesWeHack raised €4 million in February 2019 in early-stage venture funding from Open CNP to help accelerate the expansion of its operations in Europe and Asia.
HackenProof is one of the youngest bug bounty platforms on this list and a part of Hacken Ecosystem comes with products empowering the cybersecurity industry from all sides: a bug bounty platform, crypto exchange analytical ranking platform, cybersecurity conference HackIT, and a cyber school.
Morpheus.network (cryptocurrency and supply chain network) announced a partnership with cybersecurity firm Hacken.io to strengthen their security measures one step further.
You will find a lot of bug bounty platforms differing from each other in some points but still doing the same target which is helping corporates to secure their software assets and using the skills of security researchers in an ethical way.
Sometimes bug bounty becomes very competitive with many people applying to the same bug on the same site or same program. That's why most programs start private to limit the number of testers and then become public when they believe most of the vulnerabilities have been patched which is not always the real case.
Before jumping to the real bug bounties engagements, you might need some web targets that have been made intentionally vulnerable. CyberTalents Web Security Challenges can be your place to practice different web hacking techniques at different difficulty levels.