Security Researchers Unhappy With Apple's Bug Bounty Program

Apple offers a bug bounty program that's designed to pay security researchers for discovering and reporting critical bugs in Apple operating systems, but researchers are not happy with how it operates or Apple's payouts in comparison to other major tech companies, reports The Washington Post.

apple devices security bug bounty mac iphone ipad
In interviews with more than two dozen security researchers, The Washington Post collected a number of complaints. Apple is slow to fix bugs, and doesn't always pay out what's owed.

Apple in 2020 paid out $3.7 million, about half of the $6.7 million that Google paid to researchers, and far less than the $13.6 million Microsoft paid. While other companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google highlight security researchers that find major bugs and hold conferences and provide resources to encourage a wide range of participants, Apple does not do so.

Security researchers said that Apple limits feedback on which bugs will receive a bounty, and former and current Apple employees said there's a "massive backlog" of bugs that have yet to be addressed.

Apple's reluctance to be more open with security researchers has discouraged some researchers from providing flaws to Apple, with those researchers instead selling them to customers like government agencies or companies that offer up hacking services.

Apple's Head of Security Engineering and Architecture, Ivan Krstić, told The Washington Post that Apple feels the program has been a success, and that Apple has doubled the amount that it paid in bug bounties in 2020 compared to 2019. Apple is, however, still working to scale the program, and will offer new rewards in the future.

"We are also planning to introduce new rewards for researchers to keep expanding participation in the program, and we are continuing to investigate paths to offer new and even better research tools that meet our rigorous, industry-leading platform security model."

Luta Security founder Katie Moussouris told The Washington Post that Apple's poor reputation with the security community could in the future lead to "less secure products" and "more cost."

Apple's bug bounty program promises rewards ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000, and Apple also provides some researchers with special iPhones dedicated to security research. These iPhones are less locked down than consumer devices and are designed to make it easier for security vulnerabilities and weaknesses to be unearthed.

Sam Curry, a security researcher that worked with Apple in 2020, said that he offered feedback to Apple and that he feels like the company is aware of how it's seen and "trying to move forward." According to The Washington Post, Apple this year hired a new leader for the bug bounty program, so it could soon see some improvements.

Top Rated Comments

TheYayAreaLiving ? Avatar
18 months ago
I don't think anyone is happy with Apple. Apple needs to step it up.

Security, privacy and being able to fix bugs should be the top priority for Apple.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rgeneral Avatar
18 months ago
In today's world, security should be given the highest priority like the design of products.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Shirasaki Avatar
18 months ago
Apple wants a more locked down system but reluctant to pay researchers that help achieving the goal. I have no idea what Apple is actually thinking now.

Maybe several high profile mass exploits would let Apple rethink their strategies. Or, maybe Apple just cave and build their own backdoors.

What a year we are living in.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dguisinger Avatar
18 months ago
Good God, people are defending Apple on this one?

People are spending hundreds of hours of their own time (or thousands) searching for individual security holes and showing how to exploit them, and you think they don't deserve compensation (which is an industry norm at this point) for finding it and reporting it out to the vendor?

How many of you waste hundreds of hours doing what is basically your fulltime job without getting paid?
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xxray Avatar
18 months ago
Who isn't unhappy with Apple lately? Rough year for the McIntosh.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Spizike9 Avatar
18 months ago
It’s very simple. If you don’t like the way Apple does it then don’t find their bugs. Eventually there will be some bad exploits and Apple will start paying more for the good guys to find their flaws.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iPhone trade in

Apple Adjusts Trade-In Values for iPhones, Macs, and More

Wednesday January 25, 2023 9:40 am PST by
After announcing new Mac and HomePod models last week, Apple adjusted its trade-in values for select devices in the United States. iPhone trade-in values decreased by up to $80, and most Android smartphones also went down. Mac trade-in values remained unchanged or increased by up to $40 depending on the model, while some Apple Watch models increased in value and others decreased. Trade-in...
iphone 15 pro wifi 6e

Internal Apple Document From Leaker 'Unknownz21' Confirms Wi-Fi 6E Will Be Limited to iPhone 15 Pro Models

Friday January 27, 2023 10:01 am PST by
Multiple rumors have suggested that the next-generation iPhone 15 models will adopt the Wi-Fi 6E standard that Apple has already introduced in the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro, and now a leaked document appears to confirm Apple's plans. Sourced from researcher and Apple leaker Unknownz21 (@URedditor), the document features diagrams of the iPhone 15's antenna architecture. D8x refers to the...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Expected to Feature Wi-Fi 6E Like Latest Macs and iPad Pro

Wednesday January 25, 2023 5:39 pm PST by
The iPhone 15 will support Wi-Fi 6E, according to a research note shared this week by Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Tom O'Malley. The analysts did not specify whether the feature will be available on all models or limited to the Pro models. Apple has added Wi-Fi 6E support to a handful of devices so far, including the latest 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With the New M2 Max MacBook Pro

Thursday January 26, 2023 12:14 pm PST by
New 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with the latest M2 Pro and M2 Max chips are available in Apple retail stores and are already in the hands of customers, and we picked up one of the new M2 Max machines to answer all of the questions MacRumors readers considering a purchase might have. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Yesterday, we asked MacRumors fans on...
Mac Pro 2019 Apple

Mac Pro Enthusiasts Raise Concerns Over Upgrade Limitations of Apple Silicon

Thursday January 26, 2023 6:30 am PST by
The new Mac Pro coming later this year is expected to feature the same spacious modular design as the 2019 model, but with fresh concerns over its lack of upgradeability surfacing, some users are beginning to wonder what the transition away from Intel architecture actually means for Apple's most powerful Mac. The current Intel Mac Pro that Apple sells is popular with creative professionals...
iOS 16

iOS 16.3 for iPhone Launching Next Week With These 4 New Features

Friday January 20, 2023 11:43 am PST by
In a recent press release, Apple confirmed that iOS 16.3 will be released to the public next week. The software update will be available for the iPhone 8 and newer and includes a handful of new features, changes, and bug fixes. Below, we've recapped bigger features in iOS 16.3, including support for physical security keys as a two-factor authentication option for Apple ID accounts, worldwide ...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Rumored to Have These 8 Features

Friday January 27, 2023 2:11 pm PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are expected to be announced in September as usual. Already, rumors suggest the devices will have at least eight exclusive features not available on the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. An overview of the eight features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17...