When you hear the word “hacker”, what do you think? Do you think of a villainous entity staring at a computer screen, typing furiously as they crack the password to your account? Probably.
The term “hacker” has been villainized due to the large amount of cybercriminals plaguing the Internet. However, not all hackers aim to hurt other people or cause widescale data breaches that ruin a company’s reputation. No, some hackers aim to help companies. These hackers go by “white-hats“.
White-hat hackers hack for good, hacking companies under direct supervision in order to expose any existing vulnerabilities or bugs in the company’s system. They hack, write reports, and overall help the company in question.
But how, exactly, do white-hackers receive the white hat? How does someone with the hacking experience use said the experience for good? The answer is bug bounties.
What are Bug Bounties, and How Can Someone Monetize Them?
It’s possible for internal security specialists to go over every single vulnerability, bug, or exploit in their system software. This is why many companies count on white-hat hackers to find these exploits themselves. But nothing good can be had for free, which is why companies incentivize these hackers with bug bounties, bounties that pay out a moderate-to-large sum of money for the finding of an exploit.
Most bug bounties require the hacker to find the vulnerability, exploit said vulnerability to find out what happens, then write a detailed report so that internal specialists can patch the vulnerability before other, more dubious hackers take advantage of it.
Suffice it to say, and bug bounties are an incredible source of income if you know where to look and have the experience. This past year, for example, Microsoft paid out 13.7 million dollars across multiple white-hat hackers for their help in bug bounties.
The truth is, bug bounties are vital to the tech industry. The VPN industry, for example, highly depends on bug bounties to make sure a company’s VPN service lacks proper security.
With all this said, one question remains: how can you take advantage of the lucrative business that are bug bounties?
How You Can Participate in Bug Bounties
Let’s say you have the skills and the experience needed to present yourself to Microsoft or other tech companies that issue bug bounties. What then? Where do you go from there?
The first thing to do is decide whether or not you want to go for public or private bug bounties—public bug bounties are available to any hacker willing to take it, while private bug bounties are invite-only.
Starting out, you’ll most definitely go for public bug bounties. With that said, there are plenty of options for you. Let’s start off with one of the more beginner-friendly bug bounties out there: ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN’s bug bounty program includes a ton of their services and is always looking for white-hat hackers to test their programs. Established in 2016, ExpressVPN’s bug bounty program has helped many white-hat hackers get their start and/or build their resume. Definitely not a bad place to start.
If VPN testing isn’t up your alley, don’t worry—there are many more opportunities. Freelance sites are littered with companies (usually small businesses) looking for white-hats to exploit any vulnerabilities in their systems. Sites such as Bugcrowd.com are designed specifically for white-hat hackers and their skills as well.
Following bug bounty experts on social media will also help open up opportunities for you since many of these experts will advertise/retweet/share opportunities for budding white-hats.
The truth is, there are plenty of opportunities out there for people with hacking skills to do good for the world and make some money while doing so. Whether you start out by applying to 10 different bug bounty programs or being invited to a private program, you’re sure to find in bug bounties a decent source of income, all while doing what you love!