During Barack Obama's second term, some top administration officials began looking at bounties as a potential way to jump-start the effort to upgrade federal government's security programs. The idea was a radical one, so they decided to start slowly, by hacking the Pentagon.
Following the success of the bounty programs started by companies such as iDefense, Zero Day Initiative, and Mozilla, technology companies and platform providers began rolling out bounties of their own. Among the big players to enter the game were Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and eventually, Microsoft.
Bug bounties have grown from a niche idea to encourage independent security research into a massive business and a legitimate career path for bug hunters in less than 15 years. This is the story of the hackers who made that happen.
Federal agencies must publish a vulnerability disclosure policy by March 1, per a new CISA directive, but there is no provision for maturity assessments or resources to build a bug handling process.
The measure of a bug bounty program's success is not how much researchers were paid, but how the organization handled the volume of new reports. GitLab's James Ritchey share some of the lessons learned in the company's first year of the public bug bounty program.