Bug bounty programs have gained increased momentum and interest from the security research community for their role in promoting security awareness and responsible vulnerability disclosure. But they are not without their fair share of problems.
Bug bounty platforms fill a genuine need. They help companies solicit vulnerability reports in their products from pen-testers and researchers in a responsible manner while creating a monetary incentive for the researchers who file these reports.
Vulnerability hunting is no longer just a good cause benefiting the community either, but a multi-million dollar industry.
Reporter cashes out on plagiarized exploit
Platforms like HackerOne and Bugcrowd are designed to promote a culture of ethics, trust, and responsibility among security professionals.
Unfortunately, some may attempt to abuse these systems for their own financial gain.
Over the weekend, security professional Guido Vranken alleged that a vulnerability reported to Monero’s bug bounty program run by HackerOne was a verbatim copy of his previously discovered exploit.
The vulnerability Vranken is referring to is a critical buffer overflow flaw (CVE-2019-6250) that he had discovered in libzmq 4.1 series and reported to the developers in January 2019.
“Lol someone copy-pasted my libzmq exploit + analysis verbatim into a [HackerOne] bug bounty program and collected the cash,” tweeted Vranken.
Although HackerOne staff has previously closed reports with plagiarized content having no merit to them, there always remains a possibility of an inadvertent oversight by a staff member.
At the time of writing, Monero staff has stated in the same HackerOne report that even though the bug was plagiarized, that they are unable to withdraw the already-paid sum of money.
“NB: this disclosure was stolen (!!) from Guido Vranken’s original disclosure without any credit given to him. We missed that this was ripped straight from there as our focus was on reproducing the issue and fixing it. This is beyond scummy. Please don’t do this. We’ve reached out to Guido to pay him a bounty; sadly we can’t redact the bounty from Everton Melo.”
The disclosure on HackerOne comes July 2019 and has exact wording as Vranken’s January 2019 report.
On taking a closer look, Monero team had determined that “the 4.1 series (of which the repro build is using) appears to not be affected by CVE-2019-6250 but, definitively, is affected by CVE-2019-13132,” and therefore determined a reward was rightfully owed to Melo.
That is also the reason the HackerOne report had its titled changed to replace CVE-2019-6250 with CVE-2019-13132.
A key point to note here is, although plagiarism is unethical, once a bug is publicly disclosed, there is nothing stopping others from copying it, rewording, and claiming credit.
To minimize the chances of your report being plagiarized, it should be submitted responsibly and ideally privately.
Unless policies on validating the authenticity of vulnerability reports and on bug bounty payouts are reviewed by platforms, there remains room for abuse by malicious actors.
BleepingComputer reached out to both Vranken and Everton Melo for comment but we have not heard from them.