Bug bounty programs unite ethical hackers and researchers to help organizations stay one step ahead of the bad guys (or threat actors), and detect vulnerabilities in their environment.
Consider the following scenarios:
You could be a growing startup with a paying B2B customer base. You have a small team of developers and product managers who are also responsible for the security of your application. With an increasing number of bugs being reported on social media and public domains, you want to implement a bug bounty program for your mobile app that will be used by your clients’ employees.
You could be an enterprise with a large B2B footprint offering multiple products across various domains. You already have a private bug bounty program for all of your critical offerings through crowdsourced platforms, like Bugcrowd or HackerOne. However, your security department would like to set up an in-house program with limited scope and a small internal team to accept and triage bug reports from users across all channels.
Running an in-house bug bounty program can be overwhelming. It may lead to a flood of emails from hackers and researchers reporting bugs. With no reputation system in place, your security team will have to screen each report for non-issues, duplicates, and out-of-scope information.
A number of disparate teams become involved at different stages of the bug lifecycle, from reporting to disbursement of bounty. Smooth functioning of the bug bounty program requires screening and skillfully organizing submissions, collaborating for triage, timely assignment of ownership, and automation of repetitive processes.
Every team ends up running a bug bounty on one of the platforms at some point along their growth journey. But it always begins with good old email.
Why Zoho TeamInbox is the right tool to begin your bug bounty program
Zoho TeamInbox is an inexpensive yet intuitive tool with applications in a number of team collaboration use cases. The tool provides a unified collaborative space so multiple users can access, read, and send emails. This enhances team productivity and ensures transparency, visibility, and credibility among members. Here is a useful article on Zoho TeamInbox, a shared inbox tool from Zoho, that helps organize workspaces.
In this article, we’ll discuss the step-by-step process to build and optimize your bug bounty program using Zoho TeamInbox to consistently improve productivity and maintain healthy relationships with the hacker and research communities.
1.) Identify the stakeholders: Zoho TeamInbox is a suitable application for this use case because bug bounty programs involve considerable cross-functional collaboration over submitted bug reports.
Triage team: Start by selecting the members of your triage team. Include the product manager, lead tester, technical lead, and development lead. Once selected, the members can be added to a group inbox (bugbounty@) in the TeamInbox tool where you will receive bug reports from hackers.
At various stages of the bug life cycle, you can tag members from additional teams, such as legal, compliance, PR, and corporate communications, along with your data protection officer (DPO) to your bugbounty@group, or simply tag them in the chat right within the mail.
2.) Vulnerability management: It's important to define the process your teams will follow once a bug is reported.
As with all use cases that involve external communications, your inbox is "level zero," for your bug bounty program, where you can manage all the inbound emails and screen, organize, and respond to the emails within your inbox without needing to forward messages or copy collaborators.
Establish necessary automation rules and triggers, including blacklisting or whitelisting emails to filter out spam and out-of-scope messages. Use tags and color coding to segregate inbound mails based on category of defect, severity, deadline, and other criteria.
Assign: The development lead assigns the defect to the developer. They can directly raise a defect on the defect tracker tool in the inbox through the appropriate plugin. Within Zoho TeamInbox, you can leverage the out of box integration with Zapier to connect with tools such as Jira, Zoho Desk, and Monday.
3.) Documentation: A considerable amount of documentation goes into the launch of a bug bounty program. All external-facing parties should have access to necessary information and should be able to produce it to hackers whenever necessary.
Start with a bounty brief that describes the rules of engagement for hackers, the code of conduct, terms of disclosure, and the research terms and conditions. The following are essential elements for your documentation:
Scope: Define the scope of the program. Where should researchers focus their testing? What’s in scope? What’s out of scope?
Access: Provide researchers with access to your scope and help docs, source code, and libraries.
Standards: How will you rate submissions? Define and share the standards you would like the hackers to refer to, such as common weakness enumeration (CWE) by MITRE’s, OWASP top ten, or Bugcrowd’s vulnerability rating taxonomy.
Reward range: Disclose how much you will pay for vulnerabilities upfront.
Safe harbor: Assure researchers that they’ll be safe from legal action and exempt from your end user license agreement (EULA) when operating within the rules of your bounty brief.
In case of a conflict with the hacker, be ready to produce the necessary documentation and terms and conditions of the program.
Sometimes, hackers with duplicate submissions might ask for drafts of original reports and evidence of vulnerability fixes, so these emails should be pre-drafted and ready to send.
4.) Announcement: Once you're prepared to launch your bug bounty program, send an announcement across channels to reach your target audience of ethical hackers and researchers. The announcement should carry the bounty brief and provide an email address (bugbounty@) where bug reports can be sent.
You should also advise your employees in public-facing roles on how to handle security reports and escalate potential security issues.
5.) Communication and negotiation: Often, there is continuous exchange of emails with hackers, and a specific stakeholder might have to directly engage. A shared inbox allows individual stakeholders to respond from the group email address, bugbounty@.
The developer might need more details on the vulnerability from the hacker, and can ask for this information directly. The project manager must update the hacker on the SLA.
Conflict over the severity of the defect might involve the DPO. Negotiations on the bounty and other terms take place.
Communication with hackers is the most important part of the bug bounty program—even if it's only a response to duplicate, out-of-scope, or no-defect submissions. That said, communication among teams through the bug life cycle is also crucial for the success of the program. Zoho TeamInbox facilitates seamless collaborative communication, making it one of the most suitable and cost-effective tools to begin your bug bounty program.
Remember, in order to maintain a healthy relationship with hackers, you should reward them well and pay for well-written reports, including dupes.
Excited about shared inboxes? Try Zoho TeamInbox’s 14-day free trial. Learn more about how to boost your team’s productivity with Zoho TeamInbox. If you have any questions or feedback to share, or would like to schedule a product demo feel free to email us at email@example.com.