Tips on building an internal bug bounty program
As a programmer, have you ever felt pressured to ship a release with lots of new features, while you knew that there was still a technical debt stability improvements and bug fixes that you wanted to address but didn’t have the time or scope to address? This happens all the time, along with the worry that a bug could cause problems for users leading to churn, revenue and reputation costs. Even the best software faces this challenge, balancing road map velocity with software stability, with each release. These imperfections can delay new software and feature releases at a time in which speed has become a powerful competitive advantage.
Developers and their organizations are challenged to bring products to market faster without impacting their stability and reliability. To be successful in this regard, organizations need a culture and resources to detect instability at multiple inspection points.
Enter the Bug Bounty
Of course, development teams are responsible for the quality and stability of the products they build. But those products often act differently in distinct environments. This problem isn’t new. Developers have always faced unknown issues prior to a release. However, dealing with such problems can be improved by considering the cultural solutions and tools used to reduce the bugs and increase stability.
Many organizations are creating internal bug bounty programs to promote security and application stability by reducing software bugs. These organizations promote a proactive culture of ownership and empowerment through internal programs that allow a variety of employees to assume the role of bug hunters. If the proper tools are available, bug detection responsibilities can be shared by development teams, operations and executive management.
Bug bounty programs enable teams to harness problem-solving skills to reduce bugs in application and software releases. Detection tools enable multiple teams to track and prioritize bugs that have the greatest business. This involves multiple teams and viewpoints in tracking and fixing bugs to prompt a variety of strong ideas and solutions.
A companywide bug bounty program can also promote awareness by involving participants outside the development process in a fun and challenging way. It creates an opportunity for people throughout the organization to improve product quality. It’s a good way to promote application stability awareness while encouraging employees to explore applications and software development.
Internal teams of engineers and developers are inherently well-suited for these types of projects because they know the infrastructure better than anyone, including its strengths and the weaknesses. By codifying the internal search for bugs, organizations can learn from mistakes and strengthen products while building intellectual capital. An internal program has the added benefit of identifying vulnerabilities before customers or users experience them.
How to Begin
To launch a successful program, consider the nature of the program along with the process and workflow for prioritizing where to allocate team resources. Specifically, an organization must define the business objectives that determine the kind of program you want to run, what the rewards will be and the scope of what will be tested. And with that information, determine the culture and tools that make it all possible.
It’s important to keep in mind that the two pieces (culture and tools) are not exclusive and don’t have to come in a certain order. You can use the right tools to build the culture, or you can create the right culture and right tools help codify and amplify that culture.
Considerations for a Successful Internal Bug Bounty Program
What are the business goals and objectives that determine how the program is administered and what solutions will be used to achieve your desired outcomes?
To attract the talent and attention needed to run a successful program, setting the rewards in line with your business objectives is an important step.
Detailing the scope of the program is essential to specify what the program intends to investigate, where to explore and what measures are allowed.
The more detail that can be supplied the better.
What Participants Need to Know
Internal teams need to know what they are signing up for when they choose to participate in the program and how anything they uncover will be utilized. Be clear for all involved, both the organization and the program participants.
It is crucial to point participants in the right direction and establish boundaries around where activities are expected and allowed and where they will be most beneficial. One tactic may be to keep a running list or dialogue detailing important targets. These targets will likely be a mix of web, mobile, IoT and API and can be prioritized in running lists.
Once acceptable targets are established, the best way to achieve a lasting impact is to have the tools in place that allow teams to build better software. Through culture and tools, it’s important for teams to be empowered to capture errors and diagnostic data in any app, prioritize the errors that have the greatest business impact, reproduce and offer fixes for the errors, all in clear metrics that multiple teams can understand and put to use.
Finally, ground rules are needed. This step will vary among organizations based on objectives and scope. But programs should detail how tests can be carried out, who specifically is authorized conduct them and how adjustments will be communicated as the program evolves.
Businesses may find many reasons for implementing an internal bug bounty program ranging from security to quality and even professional development. Whatever the reason, take the time to define the program clearly to keep it within the scope of your goals and pay close attention to the culture you promote and the tools that are implemented to be sure the program can achieve maximum results.