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March 16, 2018

Microsoft will pay you up to $250,000 to find Spectre-like flaws

by John_A

If you know how to test hardware and software and how to identify vulnerabilities in them, then there’s some real money to be made. Some manufacturers and developers will pay tons of cash to anyone who can pick out defects in their products that can lead to system breaches — all it takes is some know-how and a little patience. Microsoft is one such company, and it’s now paying up to $250,000 for identifying vulnerabilities related to Meltdown and Spectre.

In case you’ve forgotten, these two vulnerabilities have been causing quite a stir over the last several months. They impact almost all CPUs in use today to one extent or another, including Intel, AMD, and ARM processors going back a decade or so. Fixing the bugs, which involve “speculative execution” that is used to speed up processing, has caused system crashes, reboots, and poor performance, and Intel in particular has struggled to create a stable solution.

Microsoft has now added those kinds of vulnerabilities to its bug bounty program. Phillip Misner, principal security group manager for Microsoft’s security response center, describes the new bounty:

“Speculative execution is truly a new class of vulnerabilities, and we expect that research is already underway exploring new attack methods. This bounty program is intended as a way to foster that research and the coordinated disclosure of vulnerabilities related to these issues. Tier 1 focuses on new categories of attacks involving speculative execution side channels.”

There are four tiers in the Speculative Execution Bounty Program, as follows:

  • Tier 1: New categories of speculative execution attacks, up to $250,000
  • Tier 2: Azure speculative execution mitigation bypass, up to $200,000
  • Tier 3: Windows speculative execution mitigation bypass, up to $200,000
  • Tier 4: Instance of a known speculative execution vulnerability (such as CVE-2017-5753) in Windows 10 or Microsoft Edge. This vulnerability must enable the disclosure of sensitive information across a trust boundary, up to $25,000

Microsoft will be sharing whatever research is uncovered by the bounty program. This will allow collaboration between all of the involved parties to create solutions to the vulnerabilities and create a more secure environment for users.

If you’re someone who knows how to dig into systems and find flaws, then you’ll want to take a look at Microsoft’s standard terms and conditions for its bug bounty programs. There’s some real money to be made, and so you can gain some financial benefit to go with the good feelings that come with bringing some better security to our computing lives.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Microsoft misses another Edge-related 90-day security disclosure deadline
  • Intel opens bug hunt to all security researchers, offers possible $250K payout
  • Looking back on 5 years of Surface with the product guru who brought it to life
  • Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 patch will address Spectre Variant 2 CPU flaw
  • Five years on, Microsoft’s Surface has made your PC better


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