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Crest report highlights need for bug bounty best practice

A lack of best practice guidelines for bug bounties is leaving researchers, organisations and bounty platforms confused and at risk, a report reveals

Bug bounty programmes are in urgent need of defined best practices and codes of conduct, according to a report by Crest, the technical information security industry accreditation body.

The Bug bounties: Working towards a fairer and safer marketplace report explores good and bad practice to establish how to better understand bug bounty programmes and how they fit into the wider technical assurance framework.

The report also highlights the need to provide advice to buyers of bug bounty services and protect the interests of “hunters” participating in bug bounty programmes.

The Crest report is based on collaborative research including interviews and workshops with bug bounty stakeholders and participants.

Bug bounties are becoming deeply embedded into the information security industry, the report notes, with technology giants such as Microsoft, Google and IBM now running their own programmes. At the same time, there is a rise in big bounty platforms.

These platforms, like HackerOne and BugCrowd, offer services ranging from a simple listing and introduction between a bug hunter and organisation to a fully managed service, including urgency assessment and reward processes.

Adoption of both models is increasing and bug bounty programmes are being launched at a “remarkable pace”, the report said, adding that expectations are that it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Read more about bug bounty programmes

According to BugCrowd’s 2017 State of bug bounty report, the number of enterprise bug bounty programmes launched in the past year has tripled.

“We need urgently to define the requirements around bug bounty programmes, so everyone knows what ‘good’ looks like, to protect researchers, organisations and the bug bounty platforms operators,” said Ian Glover, president at Crest.

“Organisations must carefully consider whether they are ready to run a bug bounty programme and give careful consideration to whether they run it internally or with the help of a specialist platform,” he said.

With a lot of opportunities for bug bounties to go wrong, Glover said the maturity required to run a successful programme should not be underestimated.
“While it is largely agreed that regulation would be incredibly difficult to impose, there is a need to define best practice and reconsider codes of conducts,” he said.

Glover believes there is a need to put measures in place to protect all parties involved in the bug bounty marketplace to “avoid trouble ahead”.

Defining best practice

The report said that while regulation would be “incredibly difficult”, there is a definite need to define best practice and reconsider codes of conducts.

“It is a paramount that we find a way to protect young individuals, experimenting with vulnerability programmes, from the potential grooming of the dark web. It’s important to educate them about best practice, about legalities and about what’s right and wrong,” the report said.

The report concludes by saying Crest is committed to taking the suggestions and ideas shared at the bug bounty workshop to work towards an improved future for bug bounty hunters and programmes.

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