Did you want to join a Bug Bounty program?
Are you concerned about whether or not Bug Bounty hunting is legal?
In this write-up, we are going to explore – Is Bug Bounty hunting legal?
Before we dive deep into the subject matter, you will need to understand additional concepts. Stay tuned with this helpful write-up till the end.
In this case, if you are in a hurry and want to jump over to the specific sections, you can click on the below links of sub-headings.
Table of Content
What is a Bug?
A Bug refers to a weakness or error in computer software.
For example, if a computer program fails to handle certain situations, users see an error message, often refers to as a Bug.
A Bug is also called Vulnerability. If the software has Bugs, hackers can exploit and take over the software in minutes.
Bugs are unintentional. It means, that no Developer wants to create Bugs in software.
With the passage of time and use, software(s) are subject to Bugs, often reported by security professionals and the public.
In addition, software(s) are also tested for Bugs, before making them available to Public users. The process of hunting for Bugs in a computer program is called Bug Hunting Vulnerability Testing or Penetration Testing.
Introduction to Bug Bounty
In simple words, Bug Bounty is the process of hunting for Bugs. Please note, as its name suggests, the process of Bug Bounty rewards security professionals.
In this case, security professionals are bound to find and report software errors/bugs before the public finds and exploits them.
This is how Bug Bounty programs work.
Let’s summarize the process a little bit more.
Companies often use to announce Bug Bounty programs. Once announced, individual security professionals or groups of hackers join and work together to find software bugs.
Is Bug Bounty Hunting legal?
Now, let’s discuss whether or not Bug Bounty hunting is legal.
Bug Bounty hunting is legal in terms of a software vendor because the term Bug Bounty defines public announcement, agreement, and allowance to test a program for Bugs.
However, To fully decide whether or not a Bug Bounty hunting program is legal, you will need to dig deeper.
For example, as discussed above, every Bug Bounty program is defined by its rules. Every person who joins a program is directed to follow the rules.
Now, in this case, if a person goes beyond the scope of software architecture, the vendor who has announced the Bug Bounty program will flag the activity as illegal.
Similarly, the legal part of Trade also depends on the country’s policies. For example, the bug bounty hunting rules are different from country to country.
Also, some bug bounty rules may require license information, an agreement, or an NDA from security professionals, before letting them hunt for bugs.
In this case, an NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement is a set of Terms signed between two parties. It is accomplished before some process needs to be initiated.
Thus, legal documentation may involve before a Bug Bounty process is allowed. This is why we can call Bug Bounty hunting legal.
However, it also depends on how software vendors work with independent security professionals.
Having That clarified, carrying out Bug hunting activity without legal permissions, NDA, or allowance is of course, illegal.
Here is what professionals need to do when they need to join a Bug Bounty program.
Security Professionals need to read vendors’ policies carefully before they start bug hunting. If a policy includes taking care of legal documents, you can call the whole process of Bug Bounty hunting legally.
There are popular companies with Bug Bounty programs announced.
Some of them are Facebook, Google, PayPal, Apple, and Pentagon.
The legal part of a Bug Bounty program depends on several factors, as discussed above. However, you can count a program as Legal if it bounds professionals legally.
In the same manner, the whole process is legal as allowed by software vendors. However, security professionals need to take care of the scope.
In this case, testing Things beyond the addressed areas of software may flag professionals for illegal activities.