Hey there, bug bounty beginners! If you don’t know me already, I’m Luke Stephens, but you might know me as hakluke. I’m the founder of Haksec and HackerContent, and today, I want to share with you my top 10 bite-sized tips to help you crush bug bounties in your first 12 months. So, let’s dive in!
#1: You need to actually start
Getting started is often the hardest part. Many aspiring bug bounty hunters get trapped in the cycle of constantly preparing but never taking action. It’s important to overcome this inertia and just get started. Don’t worry if you don’t feel ready or if you lack experience—starting is the only way to make progress. Trust me, you’ll learn a lot along the way.
Begin by creating accounts on bug bounty platforms like HackerOne and Bugcrowd. Start exploring programs and familiarise yourself with their scope and rules. Find the motivation to take that first step, even if it means starting small.
Pro Tip: Begin by targeting a service that you already use that has a bug bounty program. That way you will start with an advantage – you already know what the service does and how it works. Some examples might be your telco, ISP, electricity provider, local council, etc.
If you’re still stuck, here’s a video I made to help explain how to start: How to start!
#2: Hack where there’s less competition
To increase your chances of finding vulnerabilities, it’s crucial to focus on targets that have less competition. Keep an eye out for newly released bug bounty programs, new subdomains, changes in DNS records, acquisitions, and open ports. By targeting these fresh opportunities, you’ll be among the first to uncover potential vulnerabilities, giving you a better chance of securing a bounty.
#3: Do what you’re good at (but don’t limit yourself)
When starting out in bug bounties, it’s beneficial to leverage your existing skills. If you have a background in web development, focus on web hacking. If you’re proficient in mobile app security, explore vulnerabilities in mobile applications. Building on your strengths gives you a head start and boosts your confidence.
However, don’t limit yourself to just one area. Bug bounty hunting is an ever-evolving field, and diversifying your skills is essential for long-term success. Challenge yourself to learn new hacking techniques, explore different technologies, and expand your knowledge beyond your comfort zone. This growth mindset will make you a more versatile and valuable bug bounty hunter.
#4: Know the basics
Before diving deep into bug hunting, it’s essential to have a solid foundation in cybersecurity and hacking basics. Understanding concepts like the OWASP Top 10, common web vulnerabilities, and networking fundamentals is crucial. Familiarise yourself with command-line interfaces, scripting languages like Python, and various tools commonly used in bug hunting.
Skipping the basics may hinder your progress and limit your ability to find vulnerabilities effectively.
#5: Take care of your health
Your motivation and ability to learn depend on your well-being. Bug bounty hunting can be intense, and it’s easy to get consumed by long hours staring at a screen. To maintain peak performance, take regular breaks, eat healthy, get enough sleep, and incorporate physical exercise into your routine. Avoid burnout by striking a balance between bug hunting and self-care. Remember, your mental and physical health are vital for sustained success. Here’s another video I made about dealing with burnout and stress in cybersecurity: Staying Sane in Cybersecurity – Dealing with Burnout and Stress
#6: Get involved with the community
The bug bounty community is a goldmine of knowledge and support. Engaging with other bug hunters through platforms like Twitter, Discord, or bug bounty forums can provide valuable insights, tips, and networking opportunities. Share your progress, achievements, and goals with the community. You’ll be surprised by the support and guidance you receive in return.
For example, joining a bug bounty Discord server or participating in bug bounty conferences and events can connect you with experienced hunters who are willing to share their expertise. Engage in discussions, ask questions, and contribute to the community by sharing your own findings and experiences. Collaboration and knowledge-sharing within the community are essential for growth in bug bounty hunting. Here are 10 Discord channels for hackers to get you started.
#7: Collaborate with the right people
Collaboration can be a game-changer in bug bounties. Finding like-minded individuals and forming collaborative partnerships can greatly enhance your bug hunting capabilities. However, it’s important to choose your collaborators wisely.
Open collaboration, where everyone contributes equally, is key. Look for individuals who share a similar level of commitment and dedication. Collaborate on projects, share findings, and leverage each other’s strengths. When everyone involved gains value from the collaboration, it becomes a mutually beneficial relationship.
#8: Access quality educational resources
Finding reliable educational resources can be challenging when starting out in bug bounties. To help you on your journey, let me recommend two excellent resources: PentesterLab and “The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook.”
PentesterLab provides hands-on labs and exercises that simulate real-world scenarios, allowing you to practise and refine your hacking skills. “The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook” is a comprehensive guide that covers web application security in detail, providing valuable insights into common vulnerabilities and attack techniques.
By accessing these quality resources, you’ll gain essential knowledge and develop a critical mindset for approaching bug hunting challenges. Additionally, they can serve as a reference when evaluating other resources you come across.
#9: Embrace automation
Automation is a game-changer in bug bounties. It saves time and allows you to perform repetitive tasks efficiently. Identify areas where automation can be applied and leverage tools and scripts to streamline your workflow.
For example, you can automate tasks like subdomain enumeration, scanning for common vulnerabilities, or reconnaissance activities. By automating these processes, you’ll free up more time for focusing on in-depth vulnerability analysis and finding bugs.
Here’s a blog I wrote for Detectify on my trials and errors to create the perfect bug bounty automation platform: https://labs.detectify.com/2021/11/30/hakluke-creating-the-perfect-bug-bounty-automation/
#10: Be persistent
Persistence is the key to success in bug bounty hunting. It’s normal to face challenges and encounter setbacks along the way. Bugs might elude you, and you may feel discouraged at times. But remember, every bug bounty hunter goes through these phases.
Stay persistent, keep expanding your knowledge, and never give up. Learn from each experience, adapt your strategies, and continuously improve. Over time, your persistence will pay off, and you’ll start finding those valuable vulnerabilities.
Wrapping it up
Starting from scratch in bug bounties can be challenging, but with the right mindset and approach, you can succeed. Remember to start taking action, focus on fresh targets, leverage your existing skills while diversifying your knowledge, and never underestimate the power of the bug bounty community. Take care of your health, access quality educational resources, embrace automation, and be persistent in your pursuit.
So, get out there, embrace the hacker mindset, and start crushing bug bounties! Happy hunting, and may the bugs be forever in your favour!
This blog post goes hand in hand with one of my Youtube videos which you can find here: 10 Tips For Crushing Bug Bounties in the First 12 Months.