It’s common practice for companies to offer security researchers and “white hat” hackers monetary compensation for finding bugs in their products. So-called “bug bounties” allow the company to patch its products before the flaw becomes a target of nefarious hackers. Google, Apple, and many other companies use such programs. Now, HP is opening a new bug bounty program that is the first of its kind — HP wants hackers to break into its printers.
This whole concept seems silly at first, but printer security has HP worried. As HP and other manufacturers introduce more networking capabilities and cloud functions, printers are presenting a larger attack surface. HP’s the largest supplier of enterprise-grade printers, and it doesn’t want to be installing security holes in offices around the world. That’s generally bad for business.
The program operates on the Bugcrowd crowdsourced security platform, but you can’t just join it uninvited. HP has selected 34 researchers to participate in the program for the time being, but it may open it up more widely later. HP instructed the security researchers to look for firmware-level vulnerabilities like remote code execution, cross-site request forgery (CSRF) and cross-site scripting (XSS) bugs. The bounty currently covers the HP LaserJet Enterprise printers and the HP PageWide Enterprise edition printers.
Prizes range from $500 for a vulnerability with limited impact to $10,000 for a serious bug that could endanger a network. A single researcher or group can claim multiple bounties related to the same feature if they can show there are other ways to exploit them. HP will also pay up if someone reports a bug that HP already identified internally — it calls this a “good faith payment.”
The printer bug bounty will run indefinitely, and HP says it may expand the program to its PC products in the future. It’s starting with printers because it believes the threat has been underestimated as printers get ever more powerful. Many of these devices are like lightweight computers in their own right with programmable operating systems and memory for saved documents (as well as malware).