Apple Pays Hackers Six Figures To Find Bugs in Its Software. Then It Sits On their Findings.

Lack of communication, confusion about payments and long delays have security researchers fed up with Apple’s bug bounty program. The Washington Post: Hoping to discover hidden weaknesses, Apple for five years now has invited hackers to break into its services and its iconic phones and laptops, offering up to $1 million to learn of its most serious security flaws. […] But many who are familiar with the program say Apple is slow to fix reported bugs and does not always pay hackers what they believe they’re owed. Ultimately, they say, Apple’s insular culture has hurt the program and created a blind spot on security. “It’s a bug bounty program where the house always wins,” said Katie Moussouris, CEO and founder of Luta Security, which worked with the Defense Department to set up its first bug bounty program. She said Apple’s bad reputation in the security industry will lead to “less secure products for their customers and more cost down the line.”

Apple said its program, launched in 2016, is a work in progress. Until 2019, the program was not officially opened to the public, although researchers say the program was never exclusive. […] In interviews with more than two dozen security researchers, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of nondisclosure agreements, the approaches taken by Apple’s rivals were held up for comparison. Facebook, Microsoft and Google publicize their programs and highlight security researchers who receive bounties in blog posts and leader boards. They hold conferences and provide resources to encourage a broad international audience to participate. And most of them pay more money each year than Apple, which is at times the world’s most valuable company.

Microsoft paid $13.6 million in the 12-month period beginning July 2020. Google paid $6.7 million in 2020. Apple spent $3.7 million last year, Krstic said in his statement. He said that number is likely to increase this year. Payment amounts aren’t the only measure of success, however. The best programs support open conversations between the hackers and the companies. Apple, already known for being tight-lipped, limits communication and feedback on why it chooses to pay or not pay for a bug, according to security researchers who have submitted bugs to the bounty program and a former employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a nondisclosure agreement. Apple also has a massive backlog of bugs that it hasn’t fixed, according to the former employee and a current employee, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of an NDA.