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Google Online Security Blog: Vulnerability Reward Program: 2021 Year in Review

Last year was another record setter for our Vulnerability Reward Programs (VRPs). Throughout 2021, we partnered with the security researcher community to identify and fix thousands of  vulnerabilities – helping keep our users and the internet safe. 

Thanks to these incredible researchers, Vulnerability Reward Programs across Google continued to grow, and we are excited to report that in 2021 we awarded a record breaking $8,700,000 in vulnerability rewards – with researchers donating over $300,000 of their rewards to a charity of their choice. 

We also launched bughunters.google.com in 2021, a public researcher portal dedicated to keeping Google products and the internet safe and secure. This new platform brings all of our VRPs (Google, Android, Abuse, Chrome, and Google Play) closer together and provides a single intake form, making security bug submission easier than ever. We’re excited about everything the new Bug Hunters portal has to offer, including:

  • More opportunities for interaction and a bit of healthy competition through gamification, per-country leaderboards, awards/badges for certain bugs, and more!

  • A more functional and aesthetically pleasing leaderboard. We know a lot of you are using your achievements in our VRPs to find jobs (we’re hiring!) and we hope this acts as a useful resource.

  • A stronger emphasis on learning: bug hunters can improve their skills through the content available in our new Bug Hunter University

  • Streamlined publication process: we know the value that knowledge sharing brings to our community. That’s why we want to make it easier for you to publish your bug reports.

  • We now offer swag! The first 20 folks who share this blog post on Twitter and tag @GoogleVRP will receive a gift voucher for swag in their DMs.  

As in past years, we are sharing our 2021 Year in Review statistics across all of our programs. We would like to give a special thank you to all of our dedicated researchers – we look forward to more collaboration in the future! v Sn uOYMoxg1oVOLbE1I0JCPkPeA20kl592 Dlf5Gq8VJKml1WVDwFhVkgNQWUBDrOyoC3Bda r7LK69pOrSvTWNl1 qY5n0 V0yLXVvvQ5WRy4qM4DeJKAYaknnWcJODk447Fqgw

Android

The Android VRP doubled its 2020 total payouts in 2021 with nearly $3 million dollars in rewards, and awarded the highest payout in Android VRP history: an exploit chain discovered in Android receiving a reward of $157,000!

Our industry leading prize of $1,500,000 for a compromise of our Titan-M Security chip used in our Pixel device remains unclaimed – for more information on this reward and Android exploit chain rewards, please visit our public rules page. 

The program also launched the Android Chipset Security Reward Program (ACSRP), a vulnerability reward program offered by Google in collaboration with manufacturers of certain popular Android chipsets. This private, invite-only program, provides reward and recognition for contributions of security researchers who invest their time and effort into helping make Android devices more secure. In 2021 the ACSRP paid out $296,000 for over 220 valid and unique security reports.  

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We would like to give a special shoutout to some of our top researchers whose continued hard work keeps Android safe and secure:

  • Aman Pandey of Bugsmirror Team has skyrocketed to our top researcher last year, submitting 232 vulnerabilities in 2021! Since submitting their first report in 2019, Aman has reported over 280 valid vulnerabilities to the Android VRP and has been a crucial part of making our program so successful.

  • Yu-Cheng Lin (林禹成) (@AndroBugs) has been another phenomenal researcher for the Android VRP, submitting a whopping 128 valid reports to the program in 2021. 

  • Researcher [email protected] discovered a critical exploit chain in Android (CVE-2021-39698) , receiving the highest payout in Android VRP history of $157,000. 

Chrome

This year the Chrome VRP also set some new records – 115 Chrome VRP researchers were rewarded for 333 unique Chrome security bug reports submitted in 2021, totaling $3.3 million in VRP rewards. The contributions not only help us to improve Chrome, but also the web at large by bolstering the security of all browsers based on Chromium.

Of the $3.3 million, $3.1 million was awarded for Chrome Browser security bugs and $250,500 for Chrome OS bugs, including a $45,000 top reward amount for an individual Chrome OS security bug report and $27,000 for an individual Chrome Browser security bug report.

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Of these totals, $58,000 was awarded for security issues discovered by fuzzers contributed by VRP researchers to the Chrome Fuzzing program. Each valid report from an externally provided fuzzer received a $1,000 patch bonus, with one fuzzer report receiving a $16,000 reward.

The Chrome VRP would not be able to smash these records over the last year without the efforts of so many exceptional VRP researchers. We’d like to highlight a few researcher achievements made in 2021:

  • Rory McNamara, a Chrome OS VRP researcher who has been participating in the Chrome VRP for five years, became the highest awarded Chrome VRP researcher of all time. This year he was rewarded for six reports achieving root privilege escalation in Chrome OS, one of which received the highest reward amount achieved for a single Chrome bug report in 2021 at $45,000. 

  • Chrome Browser VRP researcher Leecraso (@leecraso) of 360 Vulnerability Research Institute was the most awarded researcher of 2021, with 18 valid bug reports; a majority of which were for memory corruption vulnerabilities affecting the browser process.

 

  • We love when researchers write about their findings (only after we have publicly disclosed the bug, of course)! Chrome Browser VRP researcher Brendon Tiszka wrote an excellent two-part blog series on his discovery and exploitation of a V8 vulnerability, CVE-2021-21225, the analysis and reporting of which earned him a $22,000 VRP reward.

Huge thanks and congratulations to all Chrome VRP researchers that helped us make Chrome and Chrome OS more safe for all users in 2021!.

Google Play

Google Play paid out $550,000 in rewards to over 60 unique security researchers.

The Google Play Security Reward Program also released their Android App Hacking Workshop content and published a blog on their work to empower the next generation of Android Application Security Researchers. 

kCTF VRP

In November we expanded our reward amounts for exploits against our kCTF cluster from 5,000-10,000 up to 31,337-50,337 USD. In the last 3 months we were happy to have several participants receive $175,685 USD in rewards. We also extended the timeline of the increased rewards until February 14 (from January 31) which should give everyone a couple more weeks to finalize any almost-working exploits.

GCP VRP Prize

To encourage security researchers to focus on Google Cloud Platform, we initiated the annual GCP VRP Prize in 2019. In March this year, we announced the winners of the 2020 edition of the prize and paid out $313,337 in prizes. Ezequiel Pereira won the top prize of $133,337 for finding an RCE in Google Cloud Deployment Manager. We saw some amazing research on Google Cloud Platform this year too. Stay tuned for the 2021 winners!

Research Grants

Six years ago, the Google VRP launched an experimental Vulnerability Research Grant program to encourage seasoned security researchers to take a detailed and extensive look into the security of Google products and services. And reward them even if there are no vulnerabilities found. Six years later, we are happy to announce that in 2021 we awarded over $200,000 in grants to more than 120 security researchers around the world. 

If you are a Google VRP researcher and want to be considered for a Vulnerability Research Grant make sure you opted in on your bughunters profile.

Looking forward

With the launch of the new Bug Hunters portal, we plan to continue improving our platform and listening to you – our researchers – on ways we can improve our platform and Bug Hunter University. 

Thank you again for making Google, the Internet, and our users safe and secure! Follow us on @GoogleVRP

Thank you to Adam Bacchus, Dirk Göhmann, Sarah Jacobus, Amy Ressler, Martin Straka, Jan Keller, Jon Bottarini



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Kaylin Trychon