Facebook has paid out a total of more than $4.3 million since the launch of its bug bounty program in 2011, the social media giant said.
According to the company, 5,543 researchers from 127 countries submitted over 13,000 vulnerability reports last year. Of the total, only 526 reports from 210 researchers were valid and resulted in payouts of $936,000, with an average of $1,780. The highest number of rewards went to India, Egypt, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The most noteworthy vulnerability reports from 2015 involved the lack of CSRF protection on Facebook’s messenger.com website, abusing the GraphQL search to make inferences about hidden data, and bypassing CSRF protection.
The total bounty amount decreased in 2015 compared to the $1.3 million paid out in the previous year, but the number of submissions classified as “high impact” increased by 38 percent.
Facebook attributed this growth to the increasing quality of vulnerability reports — clear instructions for reproducing the bug and theoretical attack scenario descriptions.
“The best reports come from researchers who prioritize a few important issues instead of submitting a large number of reports about various low-impact bugs,” Reginaldo Silva, security engineer at Facebook, explained.
As Facebook has become better at ensuring that traditional flaws like XSS and CSRF are eliminated during the development cycle, many bounty hunters have turned their attention to business logic inconsistencies. High quality reports describing such issues allow the company to address entire vulnerability classes at once, Silva said.
“Another important part of the program’s success stems from the trust between Facebook and the researcher community, so we invest a lot in those relationships,” Silva said. “We carefully investigate and respond to every submission, and are committed to doing so as promptly as possible, typically within a few days. We reward valid security issues based on several considerations and it’s not uncommon for researchers to tell us that the bounty they received is higher than they expected.”
While many researchers are pleased with the way Facebook runs its program, there have been cases where the social media giant quarrelled with bounty hunters over a flaw’s eligibility for a reward and the way vulnerability reports had been handled.