Congratulations! It’s very exciting that you’ve decided to become a security researcher and pick up some new skills. We’ve collected several resources below that will help you get started. Read on for our walkthrough.
Step 1) Start reading!
There are some go-to books that you can buy to help you learn the basics and essentials of penetration testing and bug hunting. Since bug bounties often include website targets, we’ll focus on getting you started with Web Hacking and later we’ll branch out.
It's very important to focus on an area of hacking that is interesting & exciting to you. Focus on that one area and pick up new things as you go, but don’t try to be the “ultimate hacker” and learn everything. The greatest hackers on Bugcrowd have specialities and areas of interest, but they don’t know how to hack everything.
Hacking is a lifelong journey of learning.
Your two go-to books are the following:
The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook
This is an absolute must-read and considered the web-app hacker’s ‘bible’. This book starts from square one, walking you through getting Kali Linux installed all the way through using tools and finding exploits.
OWASP Testing Guide v4
Highly suggested by Bugcrowd’s Jason Haddix
For further reading:
The Hacker Playbook 2: Practical Guide to Penetration Testing
The Tangled Web: A Guide to Securing Web Applications
And for our Mobile hacking friends:
The Mobile Application Hacker’s Handbook
iOS Application Security
Step 2) Practice what you’re learning!
While you’re learning it’s important to make sure that you’re also understanding and retaining what you learn. Practicing on vulnerable applications and systems is a great way to test your skills in simulated environments. These will give you an idea of what you’ll run up against in the real world.
This is a great site to learn a bit more about various web hacking techniques and how they’re done. It’s actually more of a practical walk-through. Super useful!
Penetration Testing Practice Labs
This site has a massive list of practice apps and systems for several hacking scenarios. Use this list to find new testing labs and sites to practice your skills.
Step 3) Read tech write-ups and POCs (Proof of Concepts) from other hackers and watch tutorials on YouTube!
Now that you’ve got a baseline understanding of how to find and exploit security vulnerabilities, it’s time to start checking out what other hackers are finding in the wild. Luckily the security community is quite generous with sharing knowledge and we’ve collected a list of write-ups & tutorials:
Bug Bounty write-ups and POCs
Collection of bug reports from successful bug bounty hunters.
Bug Hunting Tutorials
Our collection of great tutorials from the Bugcrowd community and beyond.
/r/Netsec on Reddit
Netsec on Reddit is almost exclusively tech writeups and POCs from other researchers. A fantastic resource.
JackkTutorials on YouTube
Jackk has created many tutorials that walk you through CSRF, XSS, SQL Injection, Target Discovery and much more.
DEFCON Conference videos on YouTube
Watch all of the talks from DEFCON over the years. Very useful resource.
Hak5 on YouTube
Hak5 typically focuses on hardware hacking, but in addition to that they also have the ‘Metasploit Minute’ show, HakTip: NMap and much more.
This is a curated list of helpful security resources that covers many different topics and areas.
Step 3-A) Gather your arsenal of tools
Tools don’t make the hacker, but they’re certainly helpful! Bugcrowd has curated an extensive list of tools that you can add to your bag of tricks:
Bugcrowd Researcher Resources - Tools
Step 4) Join the community!
You’re joining a global community of over 29,000 hackers. Luckily many of these hackers are happy to share their knowledge with a fellow polite & curious researcher.
Follow White-Hat Hackers on Twitter
A list of bug bounty hunters that you should be following.
Join the #Bugcrowd IRC channel to talk to over 100 security researchers
Follow @Bugcrowd on Twitter to keep up with the latest infosec news
Join the Bugcrowd Forum for more resources & to chat with other researchers
Step 5) Start learning about bug bounties
Okay, now you’re at the point where it’s almost time to start hunting for bounties. But first, let’s learn how bug bounties work and how to get started, just to make sure we maximize our chances of success.
How to approach a target
Advice from other bug hunters that will help you find more success when approaching a bug bounty.
How to write a Great Vulnerability Report
This will walk you through how to write a great vulnerability report. The better your report, the higher chance you will get a bounty!
How to write a Proof of Concept
Proof of Concepts show the customer how your bug is exploited and that it works. This is crucial to being rewarded successfully.
How to Report a Bug
Our walkthrough for reporting a bug via the Bugcrowd platform.
Bug Bounty Disclosure Policy
These are the rules of the road. It’s very important that you understand the bounty program’s bounty brief and disclosure policy.
Read the Bounty Hunter's Methodology
This is a presentation that @jhaddix gave at DEFCON last year and it's a super useful look at how successful bounty hunters find bugs. Check out the Github and watch the video.
Step 6) Get hacking!
It’s time to start hacking! When you’re new and getting started, it’s probably best not to try hacking the most popular bug bounties out there. Trying to hack Tesla Motors, Facebook, Pinterest and others will likely end in frustration for beginners, as those companies are very popular and are more secure because they receive many bug reports.
Go for the Kudos only programs
Instead, focus on bug bounties that have likely been overlooked by others. These are often bug bounties that don’t pay rewards but instead offer kudos points on Bugcrowd. These ‘kudos points only’ programs are a fantastic way to get started with bug bounties and to show your skills to Bugcrowd. After you’ve submitted some valid bugs to Bugcrowd, even if they’re kudos rewards only, you will likely start receiving invites to private bounty programs. The private bounty programs are invitation only and restricted to a small number of people, which means less competition and a higher likelihood of successfully finding a bug.
Step 7) Always Be Learning & Networking
Like we mentioned earlier, hacking is a lifelong journey of learning. This is what makes this field so exciting! There are always new articles and presentations to learn from, interesting people to meet at conferences or local meetups, and new opportunities to pursue.
Bug bounties are a fantastic way to enter the InfoSec community and build your career. Use bug bounties as a way to make extra money, improve your skills, meet new people, and even build out your resume.
Remember, always act professional and treat people well. This is a small community and we like to take care of each other - you never know who you might meet!