The world of hackers is more complex than you might imagine. Far from being a completely shadowy underworld, some hackers work for the greater good by searching for security flaws that need to be patched before they're exploited by criminals.
Up until recently, most bug bounties centered around PC programs and operating systems since they make up the majority of computers in the world. But with the vast increase in mobile device ownership, a new name has stepped into the field with some massive prizes for the hackers clever enough to find their flaws: Apple.
To help discover the most dangerous bugs and flaws threatening iOS, Apple is putting $1,000,000 on the line for any hacker that can truly crack it. While Apple had offered bug bounties in the past, this enormous new prize shows that they're putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to protecting users. But will it pay off?
Hack the kernel, get $1 million cash
Hackers tend to fall into two camps depending how they use their skills. Black Hats are your typical, criminal hackers. White Hats, on the other hand, poke holes in systems to find weaknesses, bugs, and security flaws. Typically, White Hats will turn their discoveries over in exchange for money -- and "bug bounty hunting," as it's called, can be quite a lucrative career.
According to new reports from Forbes, Apple has drastically increased the prizes for its bug bounty offerings — including a new $1 million reward tier for any hacker who is able to successfully bust "the kernel" of iOS. The kernel is the core of the iOS software, and if hacked, would give complete control of the phone to the intruder. Apple's only condition to claim this reward is that the hack must require zero input from the phone's owner, but if a White Hat manages to crack the problem, they'll be looking at a rather sizable payday.
This comes at an excellent time for both the company and the hackers it's attempting to court. A number of recent discoveries — such as the fact that Face ID can be fooled by glasses with tape attached — are proof that Apple's systems are far from impenetrable. Combine that with the slew of iMessage vulnerabilities discovered recently, and you can imagine why Apple would want to gird its cyberdefenses more effectively.
A better incentive than ever
This increase in cash prizes is significant for Apple. Not only was their original a bit of a lowball at $200,000, the million dollar offering actually puts Apple past their competitors as the highest ever bounty on the market from a major tech company.
The news, unsurprisingly, has a number of hackers scrambling to claim the prize. Since the original program launched, 50 major bugs had been identified by White Hats. Now, with a much higher bounty at stake, you can expect to see even more security flaws identified and patched in the coming years.
Courting hackers to keep users safe
Using bug bounties to find security holes isn't exactly a new practice, but the fact that Apple has set the stakes so high shows just how committed the company is to protecting the privacy of its users. Even in light of the recent Siri scandal, it's comforting to know that Apple is willing to investigate any potential flaws in their system that could put users in serious danger.
Not all hackers have to use their powers for evil. Perhaps if other companies focused as intently on bug bounties as Apple is, maybe Black Hat hacking would fall out of style. If going legit can net you more money, power and respect, what would even be the point of hacking others for fun?
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