Better bug-bounty reports helped Facebook hone in on 2015's surge in critical flaws

Growing participation in Facebook's bug-bounty program saw security researchers paid $US936,000 ($A1.29m) for 526 valid bug reports – including 102 high-impact bugs – during 2015, according to the company's latest report on the program.

The quality of those reports – which included 13,233 submissions from 5543 security researchers in 127 countries – was becoming “better over time” as researchers learned to guide Facebook's remediation efforts by prioritising “important” issues, including attack scenarios, and weighing the risk of bugs in terms of the users of the Facebook platform.

Researchers were also getting better at analysing Facebook's business logic. “We're receiving more reports about inconsistencies in our business logic,” Facebook security engineer Reginaldo Silva wrote in a blog post announcing the results, “which gives us the ability to eradicate entire classes of vulnerabilities at once.”

“With our vantage point (and source code access), we can apply a researcher's findings to our entire codebase and if we find any unintended or potentially confusing behaviour, the report is quickly assigned as high impact. Both high-quality reports and the focus on business logic make it easier for our team to better evaluate high-impact submissions.”

Researchers earned an average of $US1780 ($A2450) per valid bug reported, with the highest number of payouts sent to bug spotters in India, Egypt, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The identification of 102 high-impact bugs was a standout finding, jumping 38 percent compared with the volume of high-impact reports during 2014.

Silva, previously a Brazilian computer engineer before he joined Facebook, received the largest payout in the program's history – $US33,500 ($A46,000) – after he identified a serious remote-execution flaw in Facebook's OpenID authentication system.

Bug-bounty programs have become increasingly popular since in recent years. In 2013 Microsoft, Facebook and Google teamed up for a vulnerability program and standalone programs have been launched by the likes of Google, Microsoft, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

The latter company partnered with Bugcrowd, an Australian startup that has helped bug-bounty programs go mainstream since expanding overseas on the back of $1.6m in venture-capital funding.

Read more: ​How the security and operations gap is threatening your business


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