The 7 Best Bug Bounty Programs for Beginners (2024 Guide)

Bug Bounty Programs for Beginners

Are you looking to start bug bounty hunting and unsure which bug bounty programs for beginners are available? Well, you’ve come to the right place. 

This article will briefly discuss bug bounties, how they work, and how beginners can get started. Additionally, we’ll help you navigate the landscape of bug bounty programs, highlighting some of the top options particularly suited for beginners. 

Join us as we explore the world of bug bounty for beginners, guiding you to select the program that best fits your journey.

What Are Bug Bounties?

Bug bounties are simply a way for companies to reward individuals for finding vulnerabilities or flaws in an app or system, often called “bugs.” This reward usually comes in the form of monetary compensation and allows companies to utilize a community of researchers called ethical hackers or bug hunters to help secure their systems. 

How Do Bug Bounties Work?

Bug bounty programs are often managed through dedicated bug bounty platforms. These platforms provide the infrastructure to facilitate interactions between hackers and the companies sponsoring bounty programs.

Some key roles platforms may play in this process:

  • Provides a central location to browse and search available bug bounty programs based on company, industry, technology used, etc.
  • Oversees rules of engagement and scopes detailing what's inbounds or out of bounds for testing by researchers.
  • Serves as a secure communication channel between researchers and companies when submitting and validating bug reports.
  • May assist in verifying and reproducing bugs before paying out bounties.

Here are some of the key roles and responsibilities of researchers in a bug bounty program:

  • Review the program's scopes and rules of engagement - you need to understand exactly what's in scope and how vulnerabilities should be tested/demonstrated.
  • Ask questions if any aspects of testing are unclear before proceeding. 
  • Document all the steps taken and bugs uncovered throughout the testing process, as these detailed reports are vital for validation and rewards.
  • Responsibly disclose uncovered bugs per program guidelines, including reproduction steps, proof-of-concepts, severity assessments, etc. 
  • Cooperate on refining vulnerability reports and providing any supplemental info needed during triaging and verification by bounty programs before payout.
  • Only publicly share technical details on uncovered bugs with explicit permission after patching/mitigation by the affected company. 

Researchers are integral to identifying weaknesses that can be fixed before exploits are found in the wild. Their integrity and participation ultimately allow companies to offer such incentives in the first place.

In addition to monetary rewards from companies, some platforms also award "gamified" reputation points and rankings to top researchers participating based on factors like quality, severity, and impact of bugs found across programs. So researchers compete on these leaderboards for prestige.

By leveraging these platforms, both companies launching programs and researchers participating can benefit from the growing infrastructure and community around coordinated bug bounties in a more scalable, streamlined way.

Are Bug Bounty Programs for Beginners?

Yes, most bug bounty programs welcome beginners. 

While advanced hacking skills are certainly helpful for maximizing bounty payouts and being invited to a private bug bounty program, most platforms intentionally design their public bug bounties to be approachable for researchers at any skill level. The bar for entry is purposefully kept low.

  • There is no need to go through formal job applications or interviews. You just sign up for bounty programs that interest you.
  • Get hands-on experience probing production systems without damaging anything or getting into legal trouble.
  • You can start small and work your way up. There is no need to dive into highly complex bugs immediately.
  • Successful bug submissions, even for relatively small ones, start showing demonstrated experience.
  • Impressive bug bounty profiles, leaderboard standings, and successful submissions may catch recruiters' eyes.

So while beginners may not be pulling in big bounty payouts immediately, participating provides the perfect training ground to develop know-how and a track record valued by the community and industry. Taking part can kickstart or enhance your career.

Explore our essential articles to kickstart your bug bounty journey.

Bug Bounty Platforms

Let’s look at seven different bug bounty platforms. We will briefly describe each one, showcase some key details, and share some companies that use the respective platform. 

1. HackerOne

HackerOne

HackerOne is one of the largest and most reputable bug bounty platforms. HackerOne makes it incredibly easy for even complete beginners to sign up, select a program, and self-submit valid bugs without prior experience.

They boast the largest and most diverse community of ethical hackers, including more than 1.5 million researchers from 170 countries. 

Its reputation as a reliable and effective platform has been boosted because it is trusted by some of the most prominent names in technology, finance, and other industries.

Key Details

  • Simply create a HackerOne account with your email address. There is no need to be invited or approved first. They have an open registration policy.
  • HackerOne offers comprehensive training and resources with its Hacker101 for ethical hackers, promoting skill development.
  • Profiles showcase bugs submitted, reputation earned, ranks achieved, reviews, etc. Building a visible profile.
  • HackerOne operates on a reputation-based system. Researchers' reputation grows as they successfully report valid vulnerabilities, which can lead to access to more private and higher-paying programs.  

Clients

  • WordPress
  • X (Formerly Twitter)
  • Uber
  • Malwarebytes
  • Visa

2. Bugcrowd

Bugcrowd

Bugcrowd is another popular crowdsourced platform for security researchers looking to participate in bug bounty and vulnerability disclosure programs. 

Industry awards have consistently recognized the company's commitment to ethical hacking and innovative and effective technologies. 

Bugcrowd has a strong track record of helping clients improve their security and is used by top companies in various sectors.

Key Details

  • Bugcrowd has an open registration policy. Simply create a free account with your email address to get started. No vetting or approval upfront.
  • Bugcrowd's Vulnerability Rating Taxonomy (VRT) establishes a standardized classification framework for categorizing different vulnerabilities and security flaws.
  • Offers a wide range of targets for testing, including web, API, mobile apps, cloud services, IoT devices, and more.
  • AI-powered CrowdMatch matches hackers with programs based on skill, experience, and program scope, improving vulnerability discovery.

Clients

  • Indeed
  • Tesla 
  • Dropbox 
  • Netflix 
  • Opera

3. Intigriti

Intigriti

Intigriti is a European-based bug bounty platform accessible to individuals of all skill levels. You can sign up quickly and easily. 

The platform offers a variety of programs from different clients, including private and public bounty programs. Intigriti is known for its focus on European companies and hosts international clients. 

Intigriti initially screens researchers against OFAC and other sanction lists on an ongoing basis, helping reduce risks associated with researchers in restricted locations. 

Key Details

  • Intigriti allows free signup with just a username, email address, and password to get started.
  • Their platform encourages a cooperative atmosphere for finding and fixing security issues, and they view researchers as partners.
  • Once your bug bounty report is accepted, you get paid automatically according to your preferred payment method - wire transfer, PayPal, or invoice—no need to chase payments.
  • As a reward, Intigriti's Fastlane Program gives security researchers access to academic research into new and unknown vulnerabilities before making them public.

Clients

  • Ubisoft 
  • Nestle 
  • RedBull 
  • Intel

4. Open Bug Bounty

Open Bug Bounty

Open Bug Bounty is uniquely positioned in the bug bounty landscape, as it stands apart from other commercial platforms. Unlike others, Open Bug Bounty is a non-profit organization completely free for companies. This makes it accessible to smaller organizations that might not have the budget for traditional bug bounty programs.

Key Details

  • Only certain vulnerabilities (like Cross-Site Scripting and CSRF) are accepted, ensuring non-intrusive testing methods.
  • Some program owners on the platform voluntarily offer bounties or other incentives to researchers who find and report valid vulnerabilities. 
  • Open Bug Bounty can help researchers build a track record of vulnerability discovery, which can lead to career advancement or paid work.

Clients

  • Drupal
  • Creative Commons
  • British Library
  • University of British Columbia

5. HackenProof

HackenProof

HackenProof is Web3's largest ethical hacker community and a leading security platform.

It links Web3 projects (cryptocurrency exchanges, DeFi platforms, NFT marketplaces, etc.) to ethical hackers worldwide. 

Researchers use bug bounty programs to find vulnerabilities and report them for rewards in the form of cryptocurrency. 

This helps Web3 projects find and fix security vulnerabilities before hackers do. It is very welcoming to beginners, offering many resources to help you get started in Web3 technologies. 

Key Details

  • HackenProof offers educational materials on Web3 security fundamentals, covering smart contracts, blockchain technology, and vulnerability discovery.
  • Researchers are paid in cryptocurrency in USDT, ETH, or BTC, but companies may pay you in their native token.
  • Reputation points are earned through report submissions, with points varying based on the severity of the issue reported and additional bonuses for report quality.
  • Those featured in the Hall of Fame gain exposure through interviews and podcasts, enhancing their profile and showcasing their achievements.

Clients

  • Near Protocol
  • KuCoin
  • WhiteBIT
  • CoinGecko

6. YesWeHack

YesWeHack

YesWeHack is a global platform with headquarters in Paris, France that brings together companies and ethical hackers, also known as "hunters," to collaboratively improve security.  

YesWeHack allows open registration with just an email address to create an account and access public program details—no screening gatekeepers.

Key Details

  • Developed a set of open-source tools that hunters can use to aid in bug hunting, including YesWeBurp, PwnFox, and XSStools.
  • Earn points and invitations to prestigious programs with ever-bigger bounties and live hacking events.
  • Offers a VPN service allowing testers to mask IPs and bypass restrictions during testing.
  • They offer a playground called YesWeHack DOJO that simulates real-world environments for hunters to practice and hone their skills, including challenges and rewards.

Clients

  • Orange
  • Lazada
  • Telenor
  • Tencent
  • ZTE

7. Bug Bounty

Bug Bounty

A bug bounty platform from ZSecurity, Bug Bounty connects ethical hackers and businesses to find vulnerabilities in digital systems and apps. It makes public and private bug bounty programs available. Hackers can create an account, look for vulnerabilities within a specific scope, and report their findings. Valid contributions are examined, and suitable bounties are sought on the hacker's behalf. 

Key Details

  • Bug Bounty is managed by experts, ensuring a focused and efficient hunting environment.
  • Each submission undergoes thorough validation, ensuring researchers' efforts are acknowledged and rewarded appropriately.
  • You must run manual testing, which can find more vulnerabilities beyond automated scans.
  • The platform ensures fair compensation based on the severity and validity of reports.

Clients

  • Teiss
  • Hold the Sugar
  • Crew Clothing Company
  • Business Reporter

Organizations That Run Bug Bounties

Beyond using the above programs, some organizations run their own bug bounties, and you can easily begin reporting security vulnerabilities and bugs you may find. Here are five examples from some of the biggest tech companies today.

Before participating in any bug bounty program, ensure you fully understand and rigorously comply with the program's unique rules, scope, and terms of service. 

The need for responsible disclosure, respect for other user’s privacy, and adherence to program guidelines cannot be overstated. Remember that your activities may have real-world consequences.

Also, check if the company has a “safe harbor” policy. In the context of a bug bounty program, this policy offers legal protection to security researchers. This policy ensures that researchers who ethically find and report vulnerabilities in compliance with the program's guidelines are not subject to legal action under certain computer use laws, like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or the DMCA.

Apple

Apple’s security program covers a range of categories, each with specific payout ranges based on the severity and impact of vulnerabilities. These categories include iCloud, device attacks via physical access, network attacks with user interaction, and more. Each category has specific criteria for qualifying vulnerabilities.

Minimum Bounty: $500 USD for DNS zone, domain, and subdomain takeovers.

Maximum Bounty:  $2,000,000 USD for issues that bypass the specific protections of Lockdown Mode.

Meta

Meta's Bug Bounty Program covers its entire family of products, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Virtual Reality devices. The program identifies and resolves security vulnerabilities with categories such as Server Side Request Forgery (SSRF), Mobile RCE, and 2FA bypass.

Minimum Bounty: $500 USD for XS-Leak or cross-site leaks.

Maximum Bounty: $300,000 USD for a full RCE exploit.

Google 

Google's Bug Bounty Program, called “Bug Hunters,” invites researchers to report security vulnerabilities in Google-owned web properties, apps, and certain Android devices. Specifically targeting design and implementation issues in Google's services.

Minimum Bounty: $500 USD for the theft of sensitive data in Google Play. 

Maximum Bounty: $1,000,000 USD for a Pixel Titan M with Persistence, Zero click.

Microsoft

Microsoft's Bug Bounty Program offers rewards for finding vulnerabilities in various products and services. The program covers various products, including Xbox, Microsoft 365, and Microsoft Edge. Researchers are invited to report vulnerabilities with the assurance that even if their findings do not qualify for a bounty, they will still be recognized in Microsoft's Researcher Recognition Program.

Minimum Bounty:  No minimum listed

Maximum Bounty: $250,000 USD for critical remote code execution, information disclosure and denial of services vulnerabilities in Hyper-V.

GitHub

The GitHub Bug Bounty program incentivizes security researchers to identify and report vulnerabilities in GitHub's systems. The program covers a range of GitHub-owned domains and services, including GitHub.com, GitHub API, and GitHub Actions. It outlines specific rules for conducting research, such as avoiding non-technical attacks and respecting legal and ethical standards.

Minimum Bounty: $617 USD for a low severity find, such as causing application errors that could affect users.

Maximum Bounty: $30,000 USD or more for a critical issue like access to internal production systems or sensitive production user data.

Other companies that run their own bug bounty programs include Cisco, eBay, and Mozilla. 

Conclusion 

As you've seen, bug bounties are perfectly suitable for beginners, and these platforms encourage you to join and find bugs. 

Choosing the right bug bounty program is a crucial step, and with the bug bounty programs for beginners we've explored today, you are well-equipped to start your adventure.

Each program offers unique opportunities to grow your skills, understand real-world vulnerabilities, and contribute to enhancing security.

Remember, every expert was once a beginner, and with dedication and the right resources, you can excel in this dynamic field.

If you are looking to learn what’s needed to start in bug bounties, join the StationX Accelerator program today and get access to the courses you need, mentors, career roadmaps, and more. 

Happy hunting!

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  • Richard Dezso

    Richard is a cyber security enthusiast, eJPT, and ICCA who loves discovering new topics and never stops learning. In his home lab, he's always working on sharpening his offensive cyber security skills. He shares helpful advice through easy-to-understand blog posts that offer practical support for everyone. Additionally, Richard is dedicated to raising awareness for mental health. You can find Richard on LinkedIn, or to see his other projects, visit his Linktree.

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