A few companies pay money to bug hunters. But Facebook is giving out something more unique than just a check.
Some security researchers are getting a customized “White Hat Bug Bounty Program” Visa debit card.
The researchers, who can make thousands of dollars for reporting just one security hole on the social-networking site, can use the card to make purchases, just like a credit card, or create a PIN and take money out of an ATM. As the researchers find more bugs, Facebook can add more money to their accounts.
Facebook wanted to do something special for the people who are helping the company shore up its software and keep hackers and malware out.
“Researchers who find bugs and security improvements are rare, and we value them and have to find ways to reward them,” Ryan McGeehan, manager of Facebook’s security.
Besides holding cash value, the White Hat card may proffer other advantages. “We might make it a pass to get into a party,” for instance, McGeehan said. “We’re trying to be creative.”
The most Facebook has paid out for one bug report is $5,000, and it has done that several times, according to McGeehan. Payments have been made to 81 researchers, he said.
Szymon Gruszecki, a Polish security researcher and penetration tester; Neal Poole, a junior at Brown University who will be an intern at Facebook next summer; Charlie Miller, a researcher at Accuvant known for finding holes in iOS 5 and Safari, praised the card. “Facebook whitehat card not as prestigious as the SVC card, but very cool 😉 Fun way to implement no more free bugs,” he tweeted.
Facebook has plans to leverage the knowledge and skills of the researchers beyond just providing the bug bounty incentive.
“Whenever possible we’re going to try to load-in White Hat researchers into products early–as soon as (they are) in production,” McGeehan said. Thus Facebook “will get an early warning on anything they find.”