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Bug bounty marketplace in sore need of standardisation – report

01 Aug 2018

Bug bounty programmes are in urgent need of defined best practices and codes of conduct, according to a new report by CREST.  

CREST is a not-for-profit accreditation and certification body representing the technical information security industry.

The organisation provides international accreditations for organisations providing technical security services and professional level certifications for individuals providing penetration testing, cyber incident response, threat intelligence and security operations centre (SOC) services. 

The report, Bug Bounties; Working Towards a Fairer and Safer Marketplace, explores good and bad practice to establish how to better understand bug bounty programmes and how they fit into the wider technical assurance framework.

It also highlights the need to provide advice to buyers of bug bounty services and protect the interests of ‘hunters’ participating in programmes.

Bug bounties are becoming deeply embedded in the information security industry, with technology giants such as Microsoft, Google and IBM now running their own programmes.

There is also a rise in big bounty platforms offering anything from a simple listing and introduction between hunter and organisation, to a fully-managed service, including the triage and reward processes.

Adoption is increasing quickly and expectations are that it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“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,” says CREST President Ian Glover.

“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.

“With a lot of opportunities for bug bounties to go wrong, the maturity required to run a successful programme should not be underestimated,” Glover says.

“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,” adds Glover.

“We need to put measures in place to protect all parties involved in the bug bounty marketplace to avoid trouble ahead,” he continues.

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

CREST will build on the findings of this initial study to work towards an improved future for bug bounty hunters and programmes.

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