The landscape of cybersecurity seems more endangered and exposed than ever before, especially owing to the advent of new techniques that black hat hackers can employ to bring a company to its knees. Rising to the challenge, many ethical hackers, now bug bounty hunters, have been trying to help companies detect and address their security vulnerabilities.
With the significant rise in cyber attacks and the increasing demand for efficient cybersecurity solutions, bug bounty offers ample financial and educational opportunities to bug bounty hunters. Hackers, with their grasp of technology and natural aptitude for uncovering discrepancies and flaws, are aptly equipped to discover cybersecurity bugs, and they can put their knowledge to practice to earn substantial rewards.
We have previously addressed the big question of what is a bug bounty program. Yet, some important questions still remain: How to become a bug bounty hunter? Can any ethical hacker become a successful hunter? Are bug bounties profitable?
In this blog, we will go through these questions to help you on your path to a successful and lucrative career in bug bounty hunting!
What Is a Bug Bounty Hunter?
A bug bounty program is a security solution often employed by relatively secure companies and businesses that would like to identify their remaining security flaws and build a more secure environment for their clients. And Bug bounty hunters are skilled, talented ethical hackers who would rather use their technical prowess and expertise to hunt security vulnerabilities and flaws in the digital assets of a company.
The process of bug hunting, although time-consuming, can be quite beneficial for hackers as it allows them to:
- monetize their skills,
- broaden their hacking experience,
- connect with a network of cybersecurity experts,
- brush up on their understanding of safe practices,
- and, gain first-hand experience inspecting a diverse range of applications, platforms, and systems.
All these bug bounty benefits alongside the adventurous process of bug bounty hunting and its rewards account for the appeal that these programs hold for countless security experts!
What Does a Bug Bounty Hunter Do?
Data breaches and security holes found by cybercriminals can quite literally toll the death knell for the credibility of a business or brand! In fact, in many cases, companies that suffered data breaches or attacks entirely died out because of the heavy costs and the irreparable damage that came with such attacks!
In this situation, bug bounty hunters help businesses identify holes and become highly resistant to all forms of attacks! So, in effect, bug bounty hunters are security experts who hunt bugs in the digital assets of a business to report them to the company which will then mitigate the bugs and secure its assets.
If the detected bugs are unique, valid, and within the defined scope, the hunters will be paid according to the severity of their findings. But to start on this path, they need to know all the prerequisites of a successful bug hunter.
How to Become a Successful Bug Bounty Hunter?
Hunting security vulnerabilities and flaws can be a rewarding experience, not only because of the monetary compensation but also because you would be actively trying to build a safer cyberspace for every user on the internet! And with the increasing trend towards running bug bounty programs and other modern and effective cybersecurity solutions, bug hunters are ever more in demand.
So, the question of how to become a bug bounty hunter has carved quite a niche and found immense significance with the crowd of skilled hackers. So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
Aside from gaining first-hand experience, there are other educational resources and tools you need to tick off before you can rely on your skills.
1- Google’s Bug Hunter University
Reminding yourself of the basics can work miracles in improving your hacking capabilities! To polish your knowledge of the basics and best practices, you can always count on the bug hunter university of Google, which is designed to help ethical hackers sharpen their abilities no matter whether they are beginners or experienced professionals.
2- Class Central Bug Bounty Courses
Class Central has also gathered bug bounty courses from different academies to help ethical hackers start their hacking career.
3- PortSwigger Web Security Academy
PortSwigger Web Security Academy is another free training center, designed to provide comprehensive and interactive learning resources for new aspiring hackers. While Google University or Class Central courses might provide the same level of education, PortSwigger also offers labs and environments where hackers could put their theoretical knowledge to practice. Considering the hands-on experience that bug bounty hunters can earn from PortSwigger labs, it has become an ideal option for both beginners and professionals who would like to enhance their skills.
TryHackMe, as the name implies, is an online platform challenging hackers from all skill levels to complete cybersecurity practices. Their gamified approach to teaching cyber security with real-world scenarios makes this platform an excellent stage for beginner bug bounty hunters or even professional hackers to further develop their technical skills and hone their problem-solving capabilities.
Another helpful platform offering gamified cybersecurity training alongside certification and talent assessment is HackTheBox. This platform allows individuals to learn hacking from scratch or build upon their offensive and defensive security expertise.
In an attempt to help ethical hackers learn and practice the their hacking techniques, PentesterLab provides online and offline labs to teach security and pen testing. Although there’s a huge difference between penetration tests and bug bounty, you will learn a great deal and gain invaluable experience from learning the best hacking practices and skills!
7- CTF Challenges
Capture the Flag (CTF) challenges are cybersecurity competitions, simulating real-world scenarios where participants must identify and exploit vulnerabilities in various systems, networks, or applications to retrieve “flags” or hidden pieces of information. CTF challenges encourage problem-solving and critical thinking by presenting complex puzzles and obstacles that require creative solutions. So, In general, this competition is the ultimate acid test for ethical hackers to evaluate how well-developed their skills are! CTF time is a great venue to find and choose among different CTF programs.
8- The Hacker’s Handbook
Whether you’re just starting out on your career as an ethical hacker or you have been fighting on the good side for a while now, this resource can help you level up! The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws and The Mobile Application Hacker’s Handbook are both available on Amazon.
These books go through the step-by-step process of detecting security flaws and educate readers on the most up-to-date attacking techniques.
9- Real-World Bug Hunting: A Field Guide to Web Hacking
Among the resources that are available for book enthusiasts, Real-World Bug Hunting is also one of the most informative books you can read as a guide to detecting software bugs. It is written by Peter Yaworsky who is an ethical hacker himself and is sure to help you on your journey!
Other helpful books, such as Bug Bounty Bootcamp: The Guide to Finding and Reporting Web Vulnerabilities, are also available on Amazon. So, don’t worry about the resources, and just get started!
Benefiting from the accessible courses and books is not enough; you also need to develop other skills to ensure your success on this path!
1- OWASP Top Ten
Having a full grasp on the OWASP Top 10 allows ethical hackers, as well as developers, to find and mitigate security vulnerabilities. This documentation includes the 10 most critical web application security risks. The updated list is as follows:
- Broken Access Control
- Cryptographic Failures
- Insecure Design
- Security Misconfiguration
- Vulnerable and Outdated Components
- Identification and Authentication Failures
- Software and Data Integrity Failures
- Security Logging and Monitoring Failures
- Server-Side Request Forgery
Focusing on and mastering these top 10 allows all security experts to comprehend the severity of various security risks and ensure that the company can reduce its attack surface!
2- ISAC Certificates
To make sure you’re ready and qualified to start your career as a bug bounty hunter, you can join the ISAC Certified Bug Bounty Researcher Program. This program allows access to labs and instructors who will guide you through the process of identifying security vulnerabilities and reporting bugs.
Embarking on a new career path can be challenging and confusing. However, everything can look easier if you have a supportive friend by your side. So, in the process of learning, make sure to find a network of other security experts who can give you the proper support.
Paired practice with a friend enables you to learn from the practices and knowledge of a different hacker. Besides, you can always challenge each other, fuelling your motivation to keep marching forward!
Here are some of the forums you can hang out in and connect with other ethical hackers:
- HackTheBox: aside from their training platform, HackTheBox has also started a Discord channel to help ethical hackers find each other and connect.
- TryHackMe: similar to HackTheBox, this website also features a Discord channel with a large number of members, who are all passionate about the world of hacking and bug bounty.
- DEFcon: first created to help hackers connect, share, and learn from each other, Defcon is the host to the largest hacking conference every year. The conference is usually held in Las Vegas every summer, and ethical hackers are always welcome.
- HackerPlace: this forum is designed to help ethical hackers connect, share their knowledge, use resources, and find out about the latest trends.
- 0x00sec: This is an online community with the primary objective of enabling hackers and beginner bug bounty hunters to keep learning and share their knowledge in their forum posts.
- Hackaday: This online platform serves as a hub for the community of technology enthusiasts and hackers to share their knowledge, showcase their creations or findings, and collaborate with others.
What Is the Future of Bug Bounty Hunting?
Now that you have learned how to become a bug bounty hunter, you’re probably wondering about the future of this career. Well, in short, the future of bug bounty hunting is extremely bright, thanks to the increasing demands for more modern cybersecurity solutions.
The statistics also indicate that bug bounty hunters will continue to be appreciated and earn more rewards! Comparing 2021 to 2022, the average amount of payout increased from $6,443 to $26,728, and companies increased their average expenditure on bug bounties from $2000 to $3000.
So, if you’re ready to get started, don’t hesitate! The cybersecurity landscape needs more talented individuals who are passionate about fighting the bad guys and protecting companies from losing their credibility and data. And you could also use the practice and the reward too!
How Much Can You Earn From Bug Bounty?
Bug bounty hunting might have been an additional skill and a side hustle before, but now, it has the potential to turn into a high-paying career! More and more businesses are at risk of cyber attacks, and therefore, they feel the urge to spend more on the rewards of their bug bounty. For instance, in 2022, Meta paid a total of 2 million dollars as rewards to hackers that reported their cybersecurity bugs.
According to BBC, ethical hackers and bug bounty hunters can earn an annual income of $350,000 and in some cases, $1,000,000. The statistics improve for bug bounty hunters who choose to work on programs that have a zero-commission policy, like Nordic Defender.
FAQs on How to Become a Bug Bounty Hunter
So far, we’ve gone through the skill you will need and the courses and programs you need access to! Now, it’s time for the most frequently asked questions.
1- What Skills Are Needed for Bug Bounty?
If you’re interested in becoming a bug bounty hunter, you should first make sure that you have a full understanding of the basics, including the principles of reading and writing codes. Other crucial skills include mastering the OWASP 10. Once you’re done, gaining bug-hunting certificates can be the icing on the cake!
2- Is Bug Bounty for Beginners?
While most of the bug bounty hunters who win the rewards are professionals who have years of practical experience in this field, beginners can take part as well! Participating in bug bounty programs as a beginner will help you get hands-on experience, practice your hacking skills, find bugs of lower complexity, and learn from the job!
Although a beginner is less likely to win the more valuable rewards that are allocated to critical vulnerabilities, you can still gain invaluable experience from the bug bounty and earn the reward for low-severity flaws.
Besides if you’d like to start inspecting a system without the competition nagging at the back of your mind, you can also try reporting vulnerabilities to a company that has a vulnerability disclosure program in place. This experience will equip you with the knowledge and skill you require to hunt critical bugs and earn more.
3- Where Can I Practice Bug Bounty?
If you’re thinking you can’t join bug bounty unless you’re highly skilled, you’re mistaken! Aside from online courses and labs you can take part in to practice, there are also bug bounty programs you can join.
No matter whether you’re a rookie bug hunter or a professional, you can join Nordic Defender’s community of ethical hackers and start hunting bugs.
4- What Programming Language Should I Learn for Bug Bounty?
For web bug hunting and penetration testing, you need to learn the following programming languages:
- And SQL.
Although there are other programming languages you’ll need to learn, especially when it comes to applications and software, these are great starting points!
5- Is Bug Hunting Easy?
Bug bounty hunting is not meant to be simple and uncomplex! Ethical hackers who choose to embark on this journey should be highly skilled and knowledgeable. Besides, they should constantly upgrade their knowledge in different fields to make sure they’re capable of finding vulnerabilities and that they would be the first person to do so!
So, the short answer is no! The process of bug bounty hunting is not easy, but it is indeed rewarding. You might have to put into a lot of effort into identifying the bugs and staying up-to-date with the latest trends but your efforts will be properly appreciated and paid out once you’re a professional!