Bug Hunters Earn Big Bucks From Apple

Bug Hunters Earn Big Bucks From Apple

NEW DELHI— Two Indian “bug hunters” have discovered bugs in Apple’s programs this month, earning big payouts from the tech giant.

Narendra Bhati, an assistant manager in a technology firm in the western city of Pune, received $16,000 on Aug. 6, and Armaan Pathan, an aviation industry executive, netted $6,000 on Aug. 16.

Multinational tech giants such as Apple are rewarding ethical hackers to find flaws that make their programs misbehave. Bug hunting has become a buzzword in cybersecurity, and various bug bounty platforms such as HackerOne and Bugcrowd work as links between businesses and cybersecurity researchers.

The Apple Security Bounty program launched last year pays up to $1.5 million — the highest in the world. Bhati is the second Indian to receive payment from that program.

“It’s like playing a game for me,” he told Zenger News. “It lets me contribute to cybersecurity.”

He said that he has submitted several other bugs to Apple which are being examined.

Bhati said that he has also discovered bugs for Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon. He has been hunting bugs since 2013 after completing an ethical hacking course from a private institute.

A native of the western state of Gujarat, Pathan has been a part-time bug hunter since 2015. He said he has earned $350,000 by discovering bugs for Facebook, Amazon and Google. Pathan was, in fact, trained by Bhati. A winner in the Singapore government’s bug bounty competition, Pathan was also invited to Facebook Hacker Cup competitions in Miami and Singapore.

Bhati and Pathan represent the growing trend of bug hunting for tech giants among youth in India. It is a booming business globally. HackerOne helped remove 123,000 security vulnerabilities in more than 1,400 customer programs in 2019, earning $62 million for hackers from 150 countries, according to a HackerOne report.

So far this year, HackerOne reports that 170,000 vulnerabilities have been uncovered, earning hackers a record-breaking (for HackerOne) $100 million.

Indian hackers earned $4.9 million through HackerOne in 2019, coming in second only to their U.S. peers. In the past four years, India has emerged as a major player in the segment.

“As a result of their creativity and tenacity, we predict that hackers will have earned $1 billion in bug bounties within five years, protecting companies and governments alike from persistent and ephemeral threats,” CEO Marten Mickos wrote on HackerOne’s website.

HackerOne allows participants to make submissions in Hindi, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil.

The number of ethical hackers from India has increased 83 percent since last year, according to a recent Bugcrowd report. The country is also among the top locales for “cash from hacking,” earning 34 percent of bounty payments around the world.

“This has also helped India anchor its position in the field of cybercrime security research,” the report states.

The report also states that about 54 percent of all hackers surveyed were 24 years old or younger, and 41 percent had entered the bug hunting arena in the past 12 months. Thirteen percent were described as having attention-deficit hyperactive disorder or autism.

One of the first Indians to earn big money from the bug bounty was security researcher Bhavuk Jain. An independent bounty hunter, Jain cracked a bug in Apple last May and took home $100,000.

“A lot of websites and mobiles have a sign-in feature with Google or Facebook,” he said. “Apple had also launched a ‘Sign up for Apple’ feature. I found an issue with the API (application programming interface). Within four hours I knew I could hack into a person’s account on any website or mobile app simply through his e-mail ID.

 

“I have earned about $120,000 during the pandemic,” said Jain. “I am not looking for a job.”

Bug bounty hunters prevented losses to the tune of $8.9 billion last year, according to the Bugcrowd report. Ethical hackers are forecast to prevent cybercrime of more than $55 billion by 2025, the report states.

Multinational companies are investing more and more into this as dependence on digital operations grows.

The work for bug hunters, however,  is difficult and time-consuming, and training is still not well organized. It took Pathan two years to crack the Apple bug.

“Apple is the most difficult security to crack,” said Bhati.

Vishal Panchani, 25, a hacker from Surat, Gujarat, who was ranked No. 9  on the all-time leader board of HackerOne, has already earned $400,000 from bug bounty.

While noting that many young people are lured by the big money opportunities, Panchani said, “they should understand bug bounty hunting is all about passion and dedication.”

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Judy Isacoff.)



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The Real Jurassic Park: Marine Fossils Discovered In Chilean Desert

The Real Jurassic Park: Marine Fossils Discovered In Chilean Desert

The surprise discovery of fossils from two dinosaur-related marine reptiles in the world’s driest desert provides new insights into Earth’s evolution, Chilean scientists say. Finding remains of these ancient sea snakes from the Jurassic Period in today’s Atacama Desert offer researchers important clues as to how the planet changes over long periods of time.

“We tend to think that places do not change,” said Rodrigo Otero, paleontologist and head of the Chilean research team. “We usually talk about climate change when we should be talking about climate dynamics.” The recent finds in the Atacama Desert are a demonstration of that.”

Today, the Atacama is the driest desert in the world. But 150 million years ago, it was a maritime basin, Otero notes.

“Territories change over time — and that is a fact we have to accept and learn to live with,” he said.

Climate dynamics are echoed by changes in animal life. Two examples of the so-called Plesiosauria, which inhabited the world 160 million years ago, have been identified for the first time in the Atacama Desert by a group of researchers from the University of Chile and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History of the Atacama Deser that is headed by Ortero.

 

“The most important thing this discovery tells us is what the geography was like at the end of the Jurassic Period,” he said.

Plesiosauria were closely related to and lived with dinosaurs; they are reptiles that inhabited the water around the same time the supercontinent Pangaea started breaking up into smaller units that became today’s continents. Corresponding Plesiosauria remains have been found in Cuba and Europe, but this is the first time they have been identified in Chile.

“This (discovery) means there was a kind of marine corridor between what today would be the North Atlantic and the South Pacific. This marine corridor was what would today be the Caribbean,” said Ortero. “At that time, in the Upper Jurassic, which is when these fossils are from, the separation of the continents had already begun. It was an important separation that allowed a marine corridor deep enough for these animals to pass through.”

A researcher from the University of Chile digs out the fossils of the new spices of Plesiosauria. (University of Chile/Real Press)

 

The fossils of the new spices of Plesiosauria on display in an undated photograph in Chile. (University of Chile/Real Press)

Finding remains of Plesiosaurs in the Atacama Desert isn’t new. The first vertebra from that period was found in 1863 and discoveries increased in the 1970s. Until now, it was not possible to identify exactly what animal the fossils represented.

One fossil corresponds to Vinialesaurus, a marine reptile of about 4 meters (13 feet) that also lived in the Caribbean area. Before this investigation, the presence of Vinialesaurus was only known in Cuba. The other is the Muraenosaurus, 6 meters long, and from which the second-most-complete fossil in South America has been obtained.

The new study determined the remains of Muraenosaurus and Vinialesaurus that were found correspond to the Oxfordian, a Jurassic Period geological age that runs from 163 to 157 million years B.C.

 

An illustration of the Muraenosaurus. (Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology/Real Press)

 

An illustration of the Muraenosaurus. (Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology/Real Press)

The last Plesiosaurs became extinct around 66 million years ago, around the same time as the great dinosaurs. Dinosaurs can be traced directly to today’s birds; there is no direct linkage between Plesiosaurs and any animals living today. That made identifying Plesiosaur fossils a challenge.

What we do know: Both genus of Plesiosaurs were characterized by having skulls of about 30 centimeters (12 inches), with somewhat cylindrical neck vertebrae, robust bodies and fins of moderate length. They were marine reptiles of variable size, depending on the species. While the Muraenosaurus reached a length of 6 meters (20 feet), the extension of the Vinialesaurus would have reached about 4 meters, the scientists reported.

The Muraenosaurus is a well-known form in the Middle Jurassic of Europe, although scarce in the south. In fact, until now, only a fragmentary record of this genus was known in the Southern Hemisphere, specifically in Calovian rocks (166 to 163 million years ago) in Argentina.

The fossils of the Plesiosauria discovered in Chile in an undated photograph. (University of Chile/Real Press)

When these Plesiosaurs lived, part of the territory that is now northern Chile was part of the supercontinent Gondwana, while another part was submerged in the ocean. A large area of modern Chile corresponded to a wide marine basin that reached Argentina.

In addition to providing a snapshot of how and when the breakup of Pangaea into Gondwana and Eurasia happened, the discovery supplies important information about how the fauna developed from the Jurassic Period up until today, Otero said.

But he underscores a more critical finding: Earth is not static.

“The human being can accelerate the process of change, but the changes are going to happen anyway,” he said.

(Edited by Fern Siegel and Matthew Hall.)

 



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Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

The developer of hugely popular video game Fortnite dared Apple and Google to ban the game from their app stores.

The tech giants did. Epic Games’ next move: File antitrust lawsuits.

At its core, the fight is over how users pay for things hosted through the major platforms. Epic introduced a way for players to purchase virtual currency directly and more cheaply, skirting the tech companies’ payment systems. Apple and Google then yanked Fortnight, which is free but allows players to make in-app purchases, from their platforms. Both companies collect a 30% commission from in-app revenue purchases in games and said Epic’s direct payment system violated their developer guidelines.

“It’s potentially a very big case. For Apple, having this App Store model has been a huge source of revenue,” said Sandeep Vaheesan, the legal director at Open Markets Institute. “A lot of money is at stake.”

Vaheesan doesn’t expect a result in either case for years because of the complexity of antitrust cases.

Epic Games seemed ready for the Aug. 13 bans, filing the lawsuits the same day and launching a #FreeFortnite social media campaign.

The developer alleged Apple is unlawfully operating a monopoly because the iPhone maker does not allow third-party app stores on its platform.

“Apple completely bans innovation in a central part of this ecosystem, namely, any app that could compete with Apple for the distribution of apps in iOS. Through its control over iOS and through a variety of unlawful contractual restrictions that it forces app developers to accept, Apple prevents iOS users from downloading any apps from any source other than Apple’s own storefront, the App Store,” the complaint against Apple said.

Epic Games became a multibillion-dollar company, in part, because of the opportunities Apple made available to it, lawyers for Apple said in court documents filed Friday.

“When Epic willfully and knowingly breached its agreements by secretly installing a ‘hotfix’ into its app to bypass Apple’s payment system and App Review Process, it knew full well what would happen and, in so doing, has knowingly and purposefully created the harm to game players and developers it now asks the Court to step in and remedy,” Apple’s lawyers said. “Relief under these circumstances is not available under the law.”

Epic Games made similar allegations against Google.

“Google has eliminated competition in the distribution of Android apps using myriad contractual and technical barriers. Google’s actions force app developers and consumers into Google’s own monopolized ‘app store’ — The Google Play Store,” the lawsuit said. “Google uses this monopoly power to impose a tax that siphons monopoly profits for itself every time an app developer transacts with a consumer for the sale of an app or in-app digital content.”

The game is still available on Android but users are not able to download it via the Google Play Store because it violates the company’s policies, according to Google spokesman Dan Jackson.

“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users,” Jackson said in a statement. “We welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”

The hugely popular Fortnite has as many as 350 million registered users, according to consumer and business insights firm Statista. Players can team up to save the world or battle as many as 99 other users in a battle royale, or create their own worlds and batttlegrounds via the game’s create mode. Its characters’ dances have become a cultural phenomenon, with children and celebrities alike adopting the steps in videos on social media and during professional sports games. Players use in-game currency, known as V-Bucks, to buy in-game items, character customizations or a “Battle Pass” that includes an array of in-game items and content.

Epic Games is not requesting monetary compensation from either company, according to the lawsuits. Instead, it’s asked for injunctive relief against the alleged anticompetitive practices.

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

Fortnite Developer Takes on Apple and Google in a Fight to the Finish

The developer of hugely popular video game Fortnite dared Apple and Google to ban the game from their app stores.

The tech giants did. Epic Games’ next move: File antitrust lawsuits.

At its core, the fight is over how users pay for things hosted through the major platforms. Epic introduced a way for players to purchase virtual currency directly and more cheaply, skirting the tech companies’ payment systems. Apple and Google then yanked Fortnight, which is free but allows players to make in-app purchases, from their platforms. Both companies collect a 30% commission from in-app revenue purchases in games and said Epic’s direct payment system violated their developer guidelines.

“It’s potentially a very big case. For Apple, having this App Store model has been a huge source of revenue,” said Sandeep Vaheesan, the legal director at Open Markets Institute. “A lot of money is at stake.”

Vaheesan doesn’t expect a result in either case for years because of the complexity of antitrust cases.

Epic Games seemed ready for the Aug. 13 bans, filing the lawsuits the same day and launching a #FreeFortnite social media campaign.

The developer alleged Apple is unlawfully operating a monopoly because the iPhone maker does not allow third-party app stores on its platform.

“Apple completely bans innovation in a central part of this ecosystem, namely, any app that could compete with Apple for the distribution of apps in iOS. Through its control over iOS and through a variety of unlawful contractual restrictions that it forces app developers to accept, Apple prevents iOS users from downloading any apps from any source other than Apple’s own storefront, the App Store,” the complaint against Apple said.

Epic Games became a multibillion-dollar company, in part, because of the opportunities Apple made available to it, lawyers for Apple said in court documents filed Friday.

“When Epic willfully and knowingly breached its agreements by secretly installing a ‘hotfix’ into its app to bypass Apple’s payment system and App Review Process, it knew full well what would happen and, in so doing, has knowingly and purposefully created the harm to game players and developers it now asks the Court to step in and remedy,” Apple’s lawyers said. “Relief under these circumstances is not available under the law.”

Epic Games made similar allegations against Google.

“Google has eliminated competition in the distribution of Android apps using myriad contractual and technical barriers. Google’s actions force app developers and consumers into Google’s own monopolized ‘app store’ — The Google Play Store,” the lawsuit said. “Google uses this monopoly power to impose a tax that siphons monopoly profits for itself every time an app developer transacts with a consumer for the sale of an app or in-app digital content.”

The game is still available on Android but users are not able to download it via the Google Play Store because it violates the company’s policies, according to Google spokesman Dan Jackson.

“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users,” Jackson said in a statement. “We welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”

The hugely popular Fortnite has as many as 350 million registered users, according to consumer and business insights firm Statista. Players can team up to save the world or battle as many as 99 other users in a battle royale, or create their own worlds and batttlegrounds via the game’s create mode. Its characters’ dances have become a cultural phenomenon, with children and celebrities alike adopting the steps in videos on social media and during professional sports games. Players use in-game currency, known as V-Bucks, to buy in-game items, character customizations or a “Battle Pass” that includes an array of in-game items and content.

Epic Games is not requesting monetary compensation from either company, according to the lawsuits. Instead, it’s asked for injunctive relief against the alleged anticompetitive practices.

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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PHOTOS: Scots Head to Space Using Iceland as a Base

PHOTOS: Scots Head to Space Using Iceland as a Base

A Scottish-built rocket hurtled 17 miles into the sky from an Icelandic launch site, a test flight for Skyrora’s eventual plans to send larger rockets with satellite payloads into outer space. The 13-foot- (4-meter-) tall sub-orbital Skylark Micro was launched Aug. 16 from Iceland’s northeast peninsula of Langanes.

The two stages of the rocket, developed by Edinburgh-based Skyrora, reached altitudes of 4 and 17 miles (6 and 30 kilometers), respectively, before both parachuted back to the Norwegian Sea. The launch was hosted and assisted by Space Iceland, which was established early this year as the centerpiece of the Nordic country’s efforts to take part in the ongoing commercialization of space flight.

Unlike the first such “space race” during the latter half of the 20th century that was mainly underwritten and run by governmental agencies, this latest round of ventures into outer space is being spearheaded by private-sector entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk’s U.S.-based SpaceX.

Picture of the rocket. (Skyrora/Newsflash)

 

The rocket ready for launch. (Skyrora/Newsflash)

 

Scot-built rocket launches from Iceland. (Skyrora/Newsflash)

On its website, Skyrora described the Skylark Micro flight is part of a “de-risking program” designed to lead to the launch of larger rockets. More specifically, the recent mission tested onboard avionics and communications systems for its Skylark-L and Skyrora XL launch vehicles, as well as providing practice for marine-recovery operations at sea.

Until this year, Iceland had no permit procedure to allow rockets to be launched until Skyrora met with relevant government officials in January, leading to the implementation of a framework for the formation of Space Iceland.

“I am very happy that Iceland has allowed us to launch from their country,” said Skyrora CEO Volodymyr Levykin. “This allowed us to continue our developmental and de-risking program, which we must complete so we can scale up and learn from any mistakes before launching our larger vehicles. I also hope this educational launch promotes the space industry in a positive way and inspires the younger generation.”

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Stephen Gugliociello)



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