Intel Bug Bounty offers big rewards – up to $250K – for finding security exploits

FILE - This Jan. 12, 2011, file photo shows the Intel logo outside Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.
FILE - This Jan. 12, 2011, file photo shows the Intel logo outside Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif. AP

Intel Corp. is prepared to pay big bucks to computer experts who can help them patch security holes.

A big-name maker of computer chips and microprocessors, Intel this week expanded its “Bug Bounty” program, according to a press release.

The program offers cash rewards, “up to $250,000” in certain areas, to security researchers who can help Intel find and identify vulnerabilities or security exploits in its products.

Bug Bounty was introduced in March 2017, but started on an invite-only basis and offered smaller cash rewards; now, it’s open to all security researchers, the company says.

There are a number of conditions that must be met to earn a bounty, according to Intel’s website: Notably, individuals must be at least 18 years old, and they must not have worked for Intel Corp. in the previous six months. They also must not have a family member or live with someone who has worked for the company in that span.

Intel is headquartered in Santa Clara and is one of the biggest commercial employers in the Sacramento area, with about 6,000 people employed at its Folsom facility.

Expansion of the bounty program may have been prompted in part by recent security vulnerabilities, nicknamed Meltdown and Spectre. Identified late last year, these security risks can be maliciously exploited by hackers, and new methods to do so have been recently discovered, according to British tech website The Register.

Cash rewards in exchange for so-called “white hat hacking” are not unique to Intel. The U.S. Department of Defense put together a monthlong, “Hack the Pentagon” program in 2016 with a total of $150,000 in prizes available, CNBC reported. And Google, over the years, has offered a number of bounty programs. One came with a total prize pool of $3.14159 million (up to $150,000 per individual); that contest came in 2013, intended to strengthen its Chrome operating system, according to Forbes.

There’s even financial incentive to be active in computer science as early as high school in some places. In Arkansas, the Department of Education is willing to give up to $1,000 for students who pass an Advanced Placement test in Computer Science, according to KUAR.

By the way, if you’re much, much more ambitious, you can tackle the “P Versus NP Problem,” an unsolved computer science problem introduced in 2000 whose solution would earn you a $1 million Millennium Prize in mathematics and change our fundamental understanding of computation and cryptography, as MIT explains. (Good luck!)