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Google Chrome bug bounty ups Mozilla's ante

$3,133.7 for most 'elite' reports

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Two days after Mozilla sextupled the bug bounty paid to security researchers to $3,000, Google has upped the ante for vulnerabilities that are reported in its Chrome browser.

In a continuing play on elite hacker speak, Google will begin paying as much as $3,133.70 for the most critical bugs that are brought to its attention, the company announced Tuesday. Google began paying rewards in January with a sum of $1,337 for the most critical vulnerabilities. At the time, Mozilla was paying only $500 for the most serious flaws brought to its attention.

“It has been approximately six months since we launched the Chromium Security Reward program,” Google's announcement stated. “Although still early days [sic], the program has been a clear success. We have been notified of numerous bugs, and some of the participants have made it clear that it was the reward program that motivated them to get involved with Chromium security.”

The bidding war is good news for private security researchers who frequently complain they are uncompensated when they warn software makers of serious bugs that imperil their users. That longstanding arrangement allows the companies to benefit off the work of others and creates a sense that they are entitled to the information, the researchers have said.

To date only a handful of software makers offer security bug bounties. They apply almost exclusively to open-source projects such as Mozilla's Firefox and Daniel J. Bernstein's djbdns. TippingPoint's Zero Day Initiative and VeriSign's iDefense also pay for vulnerabilities with fees topping out at about $10,000. The firms use the details to protect customers who subscribe to their services from the vulnerabilities before they're patched.

So far, Google has paid just one researcher the coveted $1,337 fee, while it has doled out six $1,000 payments and 15 $500 rewards, which are paid for reports of less severe bugs, according to this accounting. The company will continue to pay the lower amount for lower severity bugs, although it will consider offering higher bounties when researchers for “high-quality bug reports,” such as those that include “a careful test case reduction, an accurate analysis of root cause, or productive discussion towards resolution.” ®

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