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Google launches vulnerability reward program to secure open-source software 

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Open-source software security is in need of a massive overhaul. So many organizations rely on open-source software to fulfill critical services and operations, but have next to no control over how these components are maintained. 

For this reason, more and more private organizations are stepping up to the plate to help identify and fix vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them. 

Just today, Google announced the launch of the Open Source Software Vulnerability Rewards Program (OSS VRP), which offers rewards of up to $31,337 for researchers who can find bugs in the open-source ecosystem. 

The launch highlights that a crowdsourced approach to security has the potential to mitigate vulnerabilities in widely used (but traditionally underfunded and under-maintained) open-source projects, and eliminate potential entry points into enterprise environments. 

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Restoring confidence in the software supply chain  

The release of the OSS VRP comes as anxiety over attacks on the software supply chain has reached an all-time high, following the discovery of zero-day vulnerabilities like Log4j and Log4Shell and monumental data breaches impacting providers including SolarWinds and Codecov

This anxiety was well-founded, as threat actors were also actively looking to target vulnerabilities in the software supply chain, with attacks targeting the open-source software supply chain increasing 650% between 2020 and 2021. 

When combined together, these factors have severely impacted confidence in the security of open-source software. Research shows that 41% of organizations don’t have high confidence in their open-source software security. 

However, providers like Google are aiming to restore confidence in the software supply chain by financially incentivising researchers to identify and fix vulnerabilities. 

“Google develops and maintains more than ten thousand open source projects. Many of these projects are used extensively in critical infrastructure (e.g. Golang,  Tensorflow). Finding and fixing vulnerabilities in these critical projects will help improve the security posture of the open source ecosystem and other user,” said Open Source Security Technical Program Manager, Francis Perron.

As part of the new initiative, researchers will receive a payout according to the severity of the vulnerability discovered, with the biggest rewards going to those who discover vulnerabilities found in sensitive projects such as Bazel, Angular, Golang, Protocol buffers and Fuchsia

It’s worth noting that this announcement comes hot on the heels of Google’s participation in the NIST/NSF/OMB’s U.S. Open-Source Software Security Initiative Workshop and will help it work toward fulfilling the organization’s $10 billion commitment to improving cybersecurity. 

The wider open-source security landscape 

Google isn’t the only organization looking to play a greater role in defining open source security. 

Earlier this year, at the White House Open Source Security Summit II organized by the Linux Foundation  and the Open Source Software Security Foundation (OpenSSF), 90 executives from 37 companies came together to discuss how to secure the open-source supply chain.

At the event, providers including Amazon, Microsoft, Ericsson, Intel, VMware and Google pledged to contribute over $30 million collectively to enhance the security of open-source software. 

At this moment, Microsoft is offering consulting services for the OSS SSC Framework, to help organizations establish a governance program to manage the use of open-source software, yet there is a limited amount of bug bounty programs focused on open-source projects rather than closed product ecosystems. 

The most comparable initiative is HackerOne’s bug bounty program, which rewards researchers for discovering vulnerabilities impacting open-source software projects and offers an average bounty of $500. 

Going forward, we can expect to see more vulnerability disclosure and bug bounty programs come to light as more organizations recognize the value of crowdsource security in reducing the risks of open-source software.

Google launches vulnerability reward program to secure open-source software 

Open-source software security is in need of a massive overhaul. So many organizations rely on open-source software to fulfill critical services and operations, but have next to no control over how these components are maintained. 

For this reason more and more private organizations are stepping up to the plate to help identify and fix vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them. 

Just today, Google announced the launch of the Open Source Software Vulnerability Rewards Program (OSS VRP), which offers rewards of up to $31,337 for researchers who can find bugs in the open-source ecosystem. 

The launch highlights that a crowdsourced approach to security has the potential to mitigate vulnerabilities in widely used (but traditionally underfunded and under maintained) open-source projects, and eliminate potential entry points into enterprise environments. 

Restoring confidence in the software supply chain  

The release of the OSS VRP comes as anxiety over attacks on the software supply chain has reached an all-time high, following the discovery of zero-day vulnerabilities like Log4j and Log4Shell and monumental data breaches impacting providers including SolarWinds and Codecov

This anxiety was well-founded, as threat actors were also actively looking to target vulnerabilities in the software supply chain, with attacks targeting the open-source software supply chain increasing 650% between 2020 and 2021. 

When combined together, these factors have severely impacted confidence in the security of open-source software. Research shows that 41% of organizations don’t have high confidence in their open-source software security. 

However, providers like Google are aiming to restore confidence in the software supply chain by financially incentivizing researchers to identify and fix vulnerabilities. 

As part of the new initiative, researchers will receive a payout according to the severity of the vulnerability discovered, with the biggest rewards going to those who discover vulnerabilities found in sensitive projects such as Bazel, Angular, Golang, Protocol buffers and Fuchsia

It’s worth noting that this announcement comes hot on the heels of Google’s participation in the NIST/NSF/OMB’s U.S. Open-Source Software Security Initiative Workshop, and will help it work toward fulfilling the organization’s $10 billion commitment to improving cybersecurity. 

The wider open-source security landscape 

Google isn’t the only organization looking to play a greater role in defining open-source security. 

Earlier this year, at the White House Open Source Security Summit II organized by the Linux Foundation and the Open Source Software Security Foundation (OpenSSF), 90 executives from 37 companies came together to discuss how to secure the open-source supply chain.

At the event, providers including Amazon, Microsoft, Ericsson, Intel, VMware and Google pledged to contribute over $30 million collectively to enhance the security of open-source software. 

Currently, Microsoft is offering consulting services for the OSS SSC Framework, to help organizations establish a governance program to manage the use of open-source software, yet there is a limited amount of bug bounty programs focused on open-source projects rather than closed product ecosystems. 

The most comparable initiative is HackerOne’s bug bounty program, which rewards researchers for discovering vulnerabilities impacting open-source software projects and offers an average bounty of $500. 

Going forward, we can expect to see more vulnerability disclosure and bug bounty programs come to light as more organizations recognize the value of crowdsource security in reducing the risks of open-source software.

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