Facebook to pay hackers for bugs

Bug bounty will be $500 per bug, but the company will pay out more for serious issues

Facebook is going to pay hackers to find problems with its website -- just so long as they report them to Facebook's security team first.

The company is following Google and Mozilla in launching a Web "Bug Bounty" program. For security related bugs -- cross site scripting flaws, for example -- the company will pay a base rate of $500. If they're truly significant flaws Facebook will pay more, though company executives won't say how much.

"In the past we've focused on name recognition by putting their name up on our page, sending schwag out and using this an avenue for interviews and the recruiting process," said Alex Rice, Facebook's product security lead. "We're extending that now to start paying out monetary rewards."

On Friday, Facebook will launch a new Whitehat hacking portal where researchers can sign up for the program and report bugs.

Many hackers go public with the software and website flaws they find to gain prestige. Finding an important bug on a widely used website such as Facebook can help make a journeyman hacker's career, and going to the press with the issue can make him -- or her -- famous.

But talking about the issue before Facebook has had a chance to patch it, can be risky for Facebook users. In recent years, other companies have started these bug bounty programs to encourage hackers to keep quiet about the problems they find until they are patched.

Google pays between $500 and $3,133.70, depending on the severity of the flaw.

Google started to pay for browser bugs in early 2010, and then in November it expanded the program to cover bugs in its Web properties too.

The Web bug bounty program has helped Google uncover a lot of programming errors in the past eight months, most of which have been in Google's lesser-known products, a company spokesman said this week.

Google sees its Web program as a big success. "We're very happy with the success of our vulnerability reward program so far. We've already given out $300,000 and have seen a variety of interesting bugs," the spokesman said in an e-mail message.

Facebook's security team already engages in a lot of dialogue between security researchers and its own programmers. The company is contacted between 30 and 50 times each week by hackers. Their information leads to an average of about one to three "actionable bugs," per week, Rice said. Most of these are cross-site scripting or cross-site request forgery issues. These are both very common Web programming errors that could be abused by scammers and cybercrooks to rip off Facebook users.

Company executives say that keeping good relationships with the hacker community is very important. Facebook has sponsored high-profile parties at the Defcon hacking conference for the past two years and Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan sees that meeting as a key place to recruit new talent and educate security staffers.

"There's no other conference that we send so many people to or think about in advance like we do at Defcon," Sullivan said "We have a lot of people who go on their own dime too, not just because it's their job. It's a really important part of the identity of the people who work here."

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesGooglesecuritysocial networkinginternetmozillaFacebook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?