Mozilla hikes Firefox bug bounties to US$3K

Increases payment for reported vulnerabilities six-fold

Mozilla on Thursday boosted bug bounty payments six-fold by increasing the standard cash award to US$3,000.

The new bounty for vulnerabilities in Firefox, Firefox Mobile and Thunderbird is also six times the normal payment by Google for flaws in its Chrome browser, and more than double the maximum US$1,337 that Google pays for the most severe bugs.

Mozilla and Google are the only browser makers that pay security researchers for reporting vulnerabilities in their products.

"A lot has changed in the six years since the Mozilla program was announced, and we believe that one of the best ways to keep our users safe is to make it economically sustainable for security researchers to do the right thing when disclosing information," said Lucas Adamski, director of security engineering. Mozilla kicked off its bounty program in August 2004 .

Only bugs that Mozilla ranks "crucial" or "high" -- its top two ratings -- are eligible for payment. In Mozilla's hierarchy, critical vulnerabilities are those that allow remote code execution; in other words, ones that when exploited give the attacker full control of the machine. High vulnerabilities are those that expose "high-value" personal information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card numbers. Denial-of-service flaws are not eligible for a bounty, Mozilla said.

Google launched its own cash-for-flaws program in January 2010, paying $500 for most bugs. Some vulnerabilities, however, earn their discoverer US$1,000, or even US$1,337, the latter given only to bugs that Chrome's team judge's "particularly severe or particularly clever."

The last time Google paid bounties was July 2, when it handed out $2,500 to a pair of researchers for reporting four vulnerabilities.

Adamski announced several other changes to Mozilla's bounty program on the Mozilla security blog Thursday .

Bugs in the Mozilla Suite, which the Mozilla Foundation dropped in 2005 -- will no longer be eligible for bounties, said Adamski. But vulnerabilities in Firefox Mobile, Mozilla's mobile browser, as well as any Mozilla services that Firefox or Thunderbird rely on for safe operation, are eligible.

Mozilla also added new language to its reward policy that gives it some new flexibility.

"Mozilla reserves the right to not give a bounty payment if we believe the actions of the reporter have endangered the security of Mozilla's end users," the revised guidelines now state.

Adamski noted that change in his blog posting, but did not elaborate. Mozilla did not immediately reply to questions early Friday.

Researchers may have questions for Mozilla about the new language, since the FAQ for the bounty program says that they don't have to wait for patches to be built and applied to, say, Firefox before they go public with their information.

"If I report the bug directly to you, do I have to keep the bug confidential and not publish information about it in order to receive a reward?" the FAQ asks. Mozilla's answer: "No. We're rewarding you for finding a bug, not trying to buy your silence."

Other bug bounty programs, particularly HP TippingPoint's and VeriSign iDefense's, not only pay more than either Mozilla or Google -- they are secretive about their payment structures, though -- but require researchers to keep mum until the vulnerability they've reported is patched.

That may change: Both TippingPoint and iDefense appear to rethinking their policies.

In mid-June, Aaron Portnoy , security research team lead at TippingPoint, tweeted, "Spender's post makes me want to enforce a hard deadline for vendors to patch. If not, ZDI drops the bug anyway. It's oddly safer that way." Portnoy's reference was to a long message posted by Brad Spender on the "Dailydave" security mailing list, in which he took Microsoft and several publications, including Computerworld to task for linking Tavis Ormandy, a researcher who publicly disclosed a critical vulnerability in Windows XP just days after reporting it, to his employer, Google.

After Portnoy tweeted his comment, TippingPoint declined further comment.

Two weeks ago, iDefense chimed in. "We should carefully watch and respond to the recent change in vulnerability disclosure trends," the company Twitter account broadcast.

The tweets from TippingPoint and iDefense seem to be a reaction to the controversy over Ormandy's disclosure of a Windows Help and Support Center bug on June 10, five days after he reported it to Microsoft. His disclosure set off a heated debate between researchers, with some security researchers critical and others supportive. Microsoft patched the flaw last Tuesday in its July security updates.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securitybrowsersGooglesoftwareapplicationsmozillaMalware and Vulnerabilities

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

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments



Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?