Security flaws are a serious issue for all software engineers and the organizations that employ them. Many flaws are inconvenient but innocuous, but the greatest vulnerabilities in software can impair security and make it subject to a breach, which, if realized, can bring immeasurable damage to the organization. Penetration testing (or pen testing) is the conventional way of looking for vulnerabilities. However, bug bounty programmes are increasingly being employed by organizations to identify bugs in their live products. Let us first look at the differences between Bug Bounty and Pentesting.
Organizations of various sizes utilize bug bounty programmes to challenge independent security professionals to find new vulnerabilities in their apps, software, websites, APIs, and other systems. Any security professional who discovers a previously unreported flaw will be rewarded with a bounty. Bug bounty schemes enable organizations to use their cyber security budgets better by only paying for outcomes.
Penetration testing, like bug bounty programmes, employs third-party ethical hackers to “attack” apps and test them for faults and weaknesses. In contrast to bug bounty hunters, penetration testers are typically accredited and work for a cyber security firm.
A bug bounty programme may be established for a variety of reasons, including gaining continual insight into the security of vital systems; Using the expertise of people outside the organization and gaining access to quite diverse skills that they would not have had otherwise; Exposing the systems to individuals outside the organization who are not involved in it, and therefore can offer an actual image of the security status; and finally, finding defects and resolving them before hackers can, and they become victims of a zero-day assault.
Penetration testing occurs within a defined scope and time frame, during which the tester is expected to find as many flaws as possible and to provide a detailed security assessment of the application, website, or system being tested, including a list of flaws and recommended mitigations to fix them. The penetration tester or cyber security firm may collaborate with the organization, providing continuing help to the development team.
Organizations utilize bug bounty programmes and penetration exams as ethical hacking to improve the security of their goods and systems. While the two testing approaches have similar end goals, their contrasts are summarised below.
Bug bounty programmes
· Pay for success — testers are only paid if they find proven bugs before anyone else.
· Bug hunters are freelancers or contractors registered on bug bounty platforms.
· Bug bounty hunters choose the projects they work on — the company has no control over who does the testing.
· Usually carried out on publicly accessible, published, or live products
· Less defined or rigid scope for testing
· No specific deadlines for a programme enabling continuous testing
· Focused on discovering vulnerabilities with little to no follow up
· Pay for time — testers are paid for a set of hours or days or by the project.
· Pen testers work in cyber security companies.
· Organizations contract with a specific company or tester to conduct penetration tests.
· Can be used earlier in the process, before a product goes live
· Conducted based on the specific terms of the client
· Carried out as a snapshot in time, usually 2 or 3 weeks
· Testers provide feedback, mitigation recommendations, and even ongoing support
While bug bounty programs have several key benefits for organizations looking to improve the security of their products, there are some limitations to consider.
1. Loss of control over what is tested or reported
2. Security concerns limit testing to published systems only
3. No support for fixing vulnerabilities
4. Compliance frameworks do not widely accept bug bounty programmes
Both bug bounty programmes and penetration testing aim to improve the security posture of systems and applications. They both have a role in any organization’s vulnerability management; however, although a company may opt to utilize penetration testing in its security management cycle, bug bounty programmes are insufficient.
Whereas bug bounty programmes are a good way to get regular feedback on various aspects of an organization’s infrastructure, penetration tests performed by a trusted professional with whom there is an ongoing relationship and who is available to assist with mitigation efforts will provide more long-term benefits. Therefore they may not completely replace pentesting.