Cybersecurity testing takes many forms - each one with different benefits. Bug bounty programs will be new to many organisations. Yet, combined with fixed timeframe testing, they provide greater security assurance on a continual basis – not just at a single point in time.
This article unpacks five key benefits of a Bug Bounty program and the difference it can make to your cybersecurity, week in, week out.
1. Bug Bounty programs reveal your vulnerabilities in real-time
Even when you’ve just completed a penetration test, a new vulnerability can be introduced into your system the following day. Without a Bug Bounty program, that risk could be left uncovered until your next penetration test – months later.
Vulnerabilities emerge via two main routes.
Firstly, your environment is constantly changing. You might release a new feature, change a bit of code, or make a firewall change. Perhaps you create a new customer login system on your website. All these actions risk new vulnerabilities appearing.
Secondly, as most organisations use at least some off-the-shelf software, you’re open to risks introduced by vendor software updates, as well as new public vulnerabilities affecting that software. You cannot control when this happens.
Tomorrow always poses a cybersecurity risk you didn’t have today.
By running a Bug Bounty program, you have an ongoing assessment tool in action. The world moves too fast to ignore putting continuous assurance in place.
Of course, should you make significant changes to your system, it’s recommended that you run a fresh penetration test. To complement this, Bug Bounty testing fills the gaps. And you get results instantly.
When bug hunters find a vulnerability, you should expect to get a notification straight away. Having completed internal quality assurance, this information is immediately published. You should also be able to choose how notifications reach you, and how quickly.
No other cybersecurity testing program delivers crucial information this fast. It’s a huge benefit for all organisations.
2. Bug Bounty Programs let you delve deeper into specific areas
Penetration testing and Bug Bounties have different approaches. Yet, used together, they’re incredibly complementary.
Your penetration tests ensure you achieve a balance of depth and breadth. Generally scoped to test an entire system – for example, a new website – it would be irresponsible to spend excessive time testing one area to the detriment of others.
Time constraints of penetration tests always control the depth of testing. And that’s where a Bug Bounty program takes the baton.
Bug hunters can spend days, even weeks, down the same rabbit hole. They’ll tease out a vulnerability that’s difficult to discover with penetration testing alone. And given, that with good Bug Bounty providers, you only pay if they find something, the risk is all the providers.
If you’re relying on an annual penetration test, you might miss finding deeper vulnerabilities that endanger your systems.
Vulnerabilities can lurk in plain sight for years. It’s not uncommon for high profile software vendors, like Microsoft, to find high impact vulnerabilities in their products that are years old. If organisations like this are affected, the risk is real for every organisation globally.
3. Bug Bounty programs give you access to a larger pool of expertise
Bug hunters are drawn from various offensive security teams across the business. With years of experience, each one brings different knowledge and capabilities to the pool.
Some have software development backgrounds, whereas others have focused on system administration. Many have three and four-letter agency backgrounds. Every hunter brings different experience to the pool.
This fresh thinking is crucial to uncover your deeply buried vulnerabilities. Having a diverse group of testers looking at your system is an asset every organisation deserves to benefit from.
Unlike public Bug Bounty programs, a good provider will know all of their hunters. In order to provide reassurance to clients, all bug hunters should be background checked and sign a contract to confirm rules of engagement and expected behaviour. It is also desirable if they hold government security clearances.
These extra layers of safety are important when you’re going to let hunters loose on your vital systems, you should always focus on quality and safety first.
This approach delivers higher quality results for your organisation too. Instead of bombarding you with muddled vulnerabilities to work through, good bug hunters focus on meaningful information you can act on. Quality checked before you see it, your outcome will be clear and valuable.
4. You only pay for what the bug hunters find
You pay for Bug Bounty programs differently to other cybersecurity testing such as penetration tests. Whilst the two work together perfectly, it’s important to appreciate the contrast in this aspect.
With a penetration test, you’re paying for time and materials for a fixed piece of work. You’re guaranteed attention during the timeframe you specify and to the exact scope of the test.
Your outcome will depend mostly on the security posture of your system. A report may provide a huge number of vulnerabilities or just a handful.
Both scenarios are incredibly beneficial as they provide a broad picture of your cybersecurity posture at a set point in time.
In contrast, when you run a Bug Bounty program, you pay for each vulnerability as it’s found. Should bug hunters discover less, you pay less. And, of course, you put a ceiling on your budget, so you stay in control of costs.
It’s far better to uncover high and critical risks than countless low-level problems with limited impact.
You specify the value you get out of your Bug Bounty program.
Of course, bug hunters are free to work on programs when it suits them, so you won’t have activity on your systems at a specific time. That’s the purpose of a penetration test. But you will uncover hidden risks yet to be found.
Many organisations welcome blending the two budgeting approaches. In this way, you increase your cybersecurity assurance on a continual basis, instead of being in the dark while you wait for the next penetration test to come around.
5. Broader scope strengthens your technical control
Consider this: you cannot control what you don’t know exists.
It’s common for an organisation’s IT footprint to get out of control quickly. You end up with shadow IT where non-official systems and applications appear.
For example, imagine if an employee decided to set up an Amazon cloud account to store client data. It might be against your policy, but that doesn’t stop it happening sometimes.
How do you strengthen your technical control with restricted testing scope?
The scope of a penetration test is specific. You determine the system area to test and provide relevant information to get ‘under the hood’.
But what could an attacker do to your organisation today, with zero prior knowledge – just access to the internet?
Setting a broader scope for Bug Bounty programs helps to answer this question and delve into areas you’re yet to know about. This is where Bug Bounties excel – and give you much better technical control.
For example, what if there’s been a breach on the dark web? Your data could be available for sale. A penetration test would never pick that up because you don’t know it exists to control.
By carrying out both penetration and Bug Bounty testing, you’ll be in a much safer cybersecurity position.
Real-time Bug Bounty testing has a valid place in every organisation’s cybersecurity testing process. Structured so you only pay for vulnerabilities found, the additional value is obvious. And discovering risks you simply didn’t know existed could make or break your organisation’s future success.
Nettitude’s Bug Bounty Platform
Nettitude’s Bug Bounty program is a unique platform, run by Nettitude’s cybersecurity experts, who abide by the highest ethical code of conduct and world-class industry professionalism.
The Bug Bounty platform is designed to give you real-time access to our team of professionals for cybersecurity expertise at your fingertips. The unique platform enables you to take control of the way the Bug Bounty program is run. It gives you direct access to our secure communication platform 24/7which provides you with high-level metrics plus details of all vulnerabilities reported. The talent and experience of our Bounty Hunters is what makes us stand out.
Find out more about the Nettitude Bug Bounty Program here