Microsoft is offering up to $100,000 for vulnerabilities found in Windows 8.1 that are paired with exploits, but it’s pretty much up to Microsoft to decide who gets paid how much based on a set of subjective criteria.
Microsoft is offering up to $100,000 for vulnerabilities found
in Windows 8.1 that are paired with exploits, but it’s pretty much up to
Microsoft to decide who gets paid how much based on a set of subjective
In order to pull down the full amount, a submission must bedetails
novel, generic, reasonable, reliable, impactful, work in user mode and be
effective on the latest Windows OS, according to
of the new bounty program. Each of those criteria is subject to interpretation.
launches security bounty programs for Windows 8.1 and IE 11 Preview
expands the scope of its vulnerability reward programs to cover Chromium OS
It will be up to Microsoft to convince potential
participants in the program that their submissions will be treated fairly, says
Ross Barrett, senior manager of security engineering for Rapid7.
“A lot of people don’t trust them,” Barrett says. Microsoft
could find an attack technique good but not novel, and then patch the
vulnerability without paying. “That’s paranoid, maybe, but that kind of
paranoia tends to be par for the course in this industry,” he says.
“If I were Microsoft I would make a point of making sure
that somebody gets this [$100,000]. It would do wonders for their reputation.
It’s more about community relations.”
It’s also about economics, because $100,000 is “an almost
insane amount of money” that will be hard to ignore, says Amol Sarwate,
director of vulnerability labs at Qualys. In countries with weaker economies
that amount would be even more significant, he says.
The sum is likely even more than researchers could make
selling such exploits on the black market, he says, and submitting to the
program doesn’t run the risk of getting caught by law enforcement.
These cash bounty programs have work pretty well since TippingPoint
(now part of HP) set up its Zero Day Initiative in 2005, Sarwate says, with
others forming similar programs. Google’s vulnerability program, for example,
has paid out more than $800,000
since it started in 2010.
Many researchers are satisfied getting public credit for
finding vulnerabilities, he says. Sarwate says this recognition is valuable to
them – so much so that citations of these credits routinely show up on the
resumes of researchers who received them.
The effectiveness of Microsoft’s big-payoff program is in
luring in “”ethically neutral” researchers who have discovered exploits and
want credit for it immediately, says Barrett. For many researchers that is the
true prize. But they may not want to take the option of responsible disclosure
in which they submit the vulnerability to the company and wait for perhaps
months for it to issue a patch and give credit because the process takes too
Instead they may disclose irresponsibly – posting the
vulnerability to a public site where they get immediate credit, but the
vulnerability is also available for criminals to exploit. It is these impatient
researchers Microsoft can hope to attract, Barrett says; they may be willing to
wait for credit if they are paid as well.
“It’s aimed at people who go straight to the press with
their exploits, and it tries to win them over,” he says.
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