Bug bounty hunting is a rapidly growing field that involves finding and reporting security vulnerabilities in software systems.
In simple terms, a bug bounty hunter is someone who hunts for vulnerabilities in software systems and reports them to the owners of the system in exchange for a reward.
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a bug bounty hunter, then this beginner’s guide is for you. In this article, we will discuss the basics of bug bounty hunting, including what it is, why it is important, and how to get started. We will also cover the necessary skills and tools required to become a successful bug bounty hunter, as well as tips for finding and reporting vulnerabilities.
How To Get Started As A Bug Bounty Hunter
Step 1: Learn the Basics of Web Application Security
Becoming a successful bug bounty hunter requires a deep understanding of web application security. To start your journey, it’s essential to learn the basics of web application security, which includes getting familiarized with common web application vulnerabilities like SQL injection, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), and other similar threats. This foundational knowledge will help you identify potential vulnerabilities in web applications and understand how they can be exploited.
Fortunately, several online resources can help you learn the basics of web application security.
Some popular books on web application security that you can read are:
- “The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook” by Dafydd Stuttard and Marcus Pinto
- “Web Application Security: A Beginner’s Guide” by Bryan Sullivan and Vincent Liu
- “Black Hat Python: Python Programming for Hackers and Pentesters” by Justin Seitz.
Online courses on platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and Pluralsight can also help you learn the basics of web application security.
Some popular courses include:
- “Web Application Penetration Testing: Basic to Advanced” by Cyber Security Academy
- “The Complete Ethical Hacking Course: Beginner to Advanced” by Udemy
- “Web Application Security for Absolute Beginners” by Pluralsight.
Step 2: Choose a Platform to Start Hunting
Once you have learned the basics of web application security and are comfortable with the tools and techniques used in bug bounty hunting, the next step is to choose a platform to start hunting for bugs.
Bug bounty platforms provide an opportunity for bug bounty hunters to find vulnerabilities in various web applications and earn rewards for their findings. These platforms also offer various resources, including bug reports, tools, and support forums, to help bug bounty hunters improve their skills and stay updated on the latest trends and techniques.
Some of the most popular bug bounty platforms include:
- HackerOne: This platform is used by several organizations, including Airbnb, GitHub, Shopify, and Spotify. HackerOne has a vast community of bug bounty hunters and offers various resources, including a learning portal and a public bug bounty program directory.
- Bugcrowd: This platform is used by several organizations, including Atlassian, Fitbit, and Mastercard. Bugcrowd offers various programs, including private, public, and on-demand bug bounty programs, and provides a range of resources, including a researcher dashboard and community forum.
- Synack: This platform is used by several organizations, including GoDaddy, Airbnb, and Dropbox. Synack provides a range of resources, including a private network of security researchers, a dashboard for researchers to manage their engagements, and a community forum.
It is essential to choose a platform that aligns with your skills and interests. Some platforms specialize in specific types of vulnerabilities or industries, while others may offer more opportunities for beginners to start hunting for bugs. It is also essential to read the platform’s terms and conditions, as well as the scope of their bug bounty programs, to ensure that you are eligible to participate and earn rewards.
In addition to the platforms mentioned above, there are several other bug bounty platforms available, including Intigriti, YesWeHack, and Cobalt. It is recommended to explore various platforms and choose the one that best suits your goals and interests.
Step 3: Read the Bug Bounty Program Rules
To increase your chances of success, it is crucial to understand the bug bounty program rules before you start hunting. These rules are usually provided by the platform or the organization offering the bug bounty program. The rules are put in place to ensure that the bounty hunters and the company are on the same page and to provide clear guidelines for the hunting process.
It’s important to read the rules thoroughly to avoid wasting your time on bugs that do not qualify for the program. Some programs may only accept certain types of vulnerabilities or may have restrictions on the scope of the hunt. For example, some programs may only accept bugs found on specific web applications or may have a list of excluded vulnerabilities.
It’s also important to understand the reward range for the program. The reward can vary greatly depending on the severity of the bug and the program. Some programs may offer a fixed reward for each valid bug, while others may offer a variable reward based on the severity of the bug.
Reading the bug bounty program rules is an essential step in becoming a successful bounty hunter. It’s recommended to take the time to carefully read and understand the rules of the program before starting your hunt.
Step 4: Start Hunting
Now that you have a good understanding of web application security and have chosen a platform to start hunting for bugs, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice and start hunting. One approach to start with is to look for low-hanging fruit, which refers to vulnerabilities that are relatively easy to find and exploit.
Some common areas where low-hanging fruit vulnerabilities can be found are the login page, password reset functionality, or contact forms. These areas often have less complexity and fewer security measures in place, making them easier to target.
As you gain more experience and confidence, you can start to target more complex areas of the web application. This may involve exploring different areas of the application, such as the database, file upload functionality, or any third-party integrations.
Remember, it’s essential to keep a detailed record of your findings, including steps taken to identify and exploit vulnerabilities. This information will be invaluable when reporting your findings to the bug bounty program.
It’s important to note that bug bounty hunting can be challenging and time-consuming. It requires a lot of patience, persistence, and dedication. However, with the right skills, knowledge, and tools, you can become a successful bug bounty hunter and earn rewards for finding and reporting vulnerabilities.
To become a successful bug bounty hunter, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest security trends, techniques, and tools. Joining security communities, attending security conferences, and reading security blogs can help you stay informed and improve your skills. Some popular websites that provide bug bounty hunting resources include:
- Security Trails
Step 5: Report Your Findings
When reporting a vulnerability, it is important to follow the bug bounty program’s guidelines, which usually require a detailed report of the vulnerability, including steps to reproduce it. This report should also include the impact of the vulnerability and how it can be exploited by an attacker. Providing a detailed and clear report can increase the chances of receiving a higher payout for the vulnerability.
Bug bounty platforms often have a reporting system in place, where you can submit your findings directly to the company or website owner. It is essential to ensure that your report is concise, accurate, and professional. Companies or website owners are more likely to take your report seriously if it is presented in a clear and concise manner.
In addition to submitting your report, it is a good idea to keep track of your findings and communicate with the bug bounty program’s team regularly. This can help you get a better understanding of the company’s response and ensure that the vulnerability is fixed promptly.
Step 6: Repeat
As with any skill, practice makes perfect, and bug bounty hunting is no exception. By repeating the process of finding and reporting vulnerabilities, you will not only improve your skills but also build a reputation in the bug bounty hunting community.
Repeating the process will also help you identify patterns and trends in the vulnerabilities you find, allowing you to fine-tune your hunting strategy and improve your chances of success. It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and technologies, as the landscape of web application security is constantly evolving.
By becoming a regular contributor to bug bounty programs, you can also establish relationships with program managers and other hunters, leading to potential collaborations and partnerships.
In addition to repeating the process, it’s important to continue learning and expanding your knowledge. Attend conferences, read blogs and books, and participate in online communities to stay informed and engaged in the bug bounty hunting world.
Overall, repeating the process is essential to becoming a successful and respected bug bounty hunter. With dedication and persistence, you can build a successful career in this exciting and lucrative field.
In conclusion, becoming a bug bounty hunter requires a combination of technical knowledge, persistence, and attention to detail. By learning the basics of web application security, choosing a suitable platform, reading the program rules, and starting the hunt, you can become a successful bug bounty hunter.
It’s an exciting field that offers the opportunity to make a significant impact while earning rewards for your efforts. With the right mindset and dedication, anyone can become a skilled bug bounty hunter and contribute to the improvement of cybersecurity worldwide.