Most top tech companies offer up serious cash to hackers or security companies that are able to find flaws in their products; but up until now, Apple has not.
Despite a reputation for being fairly secure, the company has never been too upfront about security problems. While Microsoft will regularly announce flaws discovered in Windows products, Apple tends to keep quiet. The idea being that talking about something you don’t a fix for yet will just encourage hackers to exploit the flaw. But that can also leave devices unprotected because users are clueless about the issue.
Macs were generally not targeted by hackers just because of sheer numbers with Mac usage hovering around 10% of the home computer market. That all changed with the iPhone. Apple has a huge share of the phone and tablet market, making their products a much more attractive target for hackers.
Apple has recognized that and is now offering a $200,000 reward for any person or company that discovers a serious security issue with their products. Compare that with Google’s $100,000 bounty for finding serious vulnerabilities. Google awarded more than half a million dollars in bug bounties last year. Previously, Apple basically just said “thanks” if you discovered a flaw in their system.
What prompted the switch? With the advent of Apple’s Home Kit which can control everything in your house from locks to the thermostat and the ability to use your Apple Watch for everything from unlocking your Mac to paying for your dinner, security is becoming more and more important.
When Apple refused to unlock the iPhone of one of the terrorists behind the Christmas Party massacre in San Bernardino for the FBI, the agency offered a bug bounty of its own for anyone that could find a way into the phone. They are rumored to have paid out more than $1 million to crack the device.
By offering a bounty the company hopes that hackers will be more likely to share their discoveries with Apple instead of offering them up to government agencies or using them for illegal purposes.