Over the past decade or so, the cybersecurity landscape has changed drastically and this has created a significant requirement for cybersecurity professionals along with new job roles. Though there are a huge number of cybersecurity job roles available today, there is one role that isn’t much talked about — bug bounty hunter.
In this article, we are going to understand what bug bounty hunter is and how you can get started with this job role.
Who Is A Bug Bounty Hunter?
A bug bounty hunter is an individual who knows the nuts and bolts of cybersecurity and is well familiar with finding bugs or flaws. Simply put, a bug bounty hunter tests applications and platforms and looks for bugs that sometimes even the in-house development team fails to spot. Once spotting a bug, these professionals inform the company (or the concerned body behind the application or the platform) about the bug and in return, they get paid. The benefits are not always monetary.
The concept of a bug bounty is not really new — however, in India, it has gained traction over the last decade. A bug bounty hunter is bound to work for one single client or company; s/he can work for other companies as well, as all they have to do, is to discover bugs and report.
But why don’t companies set up an in-house dedicated bug-hunting team? The reason behind this is the fact when there is a huge number of hackers (white hats) are trying to find a bug, the chances are much higher than the problem would be sorted quickly and more easily.
And if you look at it practically, the companies don’t have to pay on a monthly basis to the in-house team, rather they can pay people who would help them uncover all the flaws and award them with benefits.
How To Become A Bug Bounty Hunter
Before jumping right into covering how you can get started as a bug bounty hunter, having a cybersecurity background or a significant knowledge of vulnerability assessment will be helpful. However, it is not mandatory to be well-versed cybersecurity — there are many high-earning bug bounty hunters who are self-taught.
Know The Trend
Irrespective of the domain, this is the first and foremost thing one should do before jumping right into the getting started. Try to look for the trends in the bug bounty industry — what kind of platforms are involved, what are the methods that the hackers are using, tools involved etc. This would give an idea about how you should move ahead to get started a bug bounty hunter.
Some of the key areas to focus are cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL Injection, Business Logic, Information Gathering etc.
Education And Training
Cybersecurity is a vast topic, and one cannot master it just in a few days. When it comes to learning the nuts and bolts of vulnerability assessment, people either go for a short time approach or they either take a full-fledged training. However, it completely depends on you and how you want fast you want to learn.
Here we will look at the short time approach that you can take to kick start your bug bounty journey and let’s focus on the web and mobile platform. In order to learn, you can always prefer some of the sought after books from the domain:
- The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws
- Web Hacking 101: How to Make Money Hacking Ethically
- OWASP Testing Guide v4
There are several other books that are available about bug bounty hunting, but the above three are considered to be one of the bests.
If you want to take things further, you can always join full-time cybersecurity training such as CEH. And just because you are taking a full-time course that doesn’t mean you are not supposed to go for the practical approach. When you start to gain the knowledge you start directly with some bug bounty programs on the internet.
One more method to learn the game is by reading POCs by other hackers or by watching tutorials on YouTube. It is also considered to be one of the best ways to expand your knowledge.
This is one of the most crucial things when it comes to practice vulnerability assessment or penetration testing. While training institutes provide you with the practice platform, it is tough for self-taught professionals. One cannot simply hack random websites or platforms on the internet as it is not legal.
So, it is always advised to set up a virtual system and try out your skills. Or one can even try practising on bug bounty programs itself. You have a look at all the previous years bug that were discovered, and the methods used.
Know The Tools
When it comes to penetration testing or vulnerability assessment, Kali Linux is definitely one of the best. However, it is not mandatory. The only reason behind using Kali Linux is the fact that the OS is loaded with hundreds of tools that are sophisticated and are capable of breaking into some of the strong cybersecurity infrastructures.
Finding The Job
Finding the right bug bounty program is also one of the most crucial phases. You cannot afford to take up a project that you are sceptical about and waste your time. Rather, choose a bug bounty program that fits well with your skills and knowledge.
The Indian Bug Bounty Industry
According to a report, bug hunting has proven to be 16 times more lucrative than a job as a software engineer. A May 2017 Hacker-Powered Security report indicated that white hat hackers in India got a whopping $1.8 million in bounties.
Facebook, on completing five years of its bug bounty programme in 2016, listed the top three countries based on the number of payouts of the bug bounty programme. India topped that list.
Over the years, bug bounty programs have gained tremendous popularity in India and today, these programs are not only rewarding security researchers but also creating an ecosystem of knowledge sharing.