Bug bounty programs are rather popular these days. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla pay respectable amounts of money to researchers who disclose vulnerabilities to them. While the argument can be made that some vulnerabilities are worth far more on the open market than the bounty paid, most vendors respect this and offer as much as they can, but do so knowing they can't compete with many organizations.

With that said, when word of a new bounty program spreads, there's usually a good deal of attention paid to it in the InfoSec world, and a measure of positive reinforcement from the research community. That wasn't the case last week when SCADA vendor IntegraXor announced their bug bounty program for IntegraXor SCADA.

[The SCADA security survival guide]

In fact, one notable researcher -- Chris Soghoian -- called the program pathetic, agreeing with the opinion of Vupen's (a provider of exploits and vulnerability research) Chaouki Bekrar.

The program offers payments in the form of product credit, good towards the purchase of software licenses. The value of these payment vouchers range from $149.00 USD up to $3999.00 USD. Researchers who claim one of the bounties may resell it on the IntegraXor forum or other locations.

Not everyone agrees with the criticism. Terry McCorkle, technical director for Cylance, said the bounty is interesting, noting that the company confirmed as much on their blog. As it turns out, when IntegraXor launched the program in order to make their software safer, they didn't intend it to be for anyone but customers.

"The reason behind this is straightforward, we wish to start the program small. But it turns out attracts so many talk about among respectable security researchers. We wish to accept all critics humbly and will improve the program wherever appropriate and whenever possible," the company said.

However, even if the program is for customers only, the limitations are almost overly restrictive. Customers who wish to take part in the program cannot report bugs in beta software or release-candidate versions of the software. Also, fuzzing isn't an option, as the program rules state that random strings of data into the software's various fields "that could possibly crash/hang the program will not be qualified."

Likewise, there is conflicting instructions, another issue that some researchers pointed out as problematic. The program's rules state that Spam or DoS attacks are not an option, while listing reward schemes for bugs that cause the program to hang or crash -- also known in some circles as a Denial of Service condition.

"They're going to have to figure out what works, what doesn't work. I don't know why they'd set the exclusions they have, or why they would be saying you can't touch a beta -- I'd imagine that's the place most people will instantly go to. If they're interested in finding bugs there're going to go after the newest version of the software," McCorkle commented.

[Securing SCADA systems still a piecemeal affair]

However, the blowback and the limitations implemented by IntegraXor may have another unintended consequence because they've painted a target on themselves and their product, said McCorkle.

"This policy has let the hacker community know that [IntegraXor doesn't] truly understand what a bug program looks like or how bugs work. They're shining more of a light on their vulnerabilities, and the reality is the hackers arent going to go sell their bugs to them, they're going to go sell their bugs to some other agency," McCorkle added.

The bounty program from IntegraXor may have its flaws, but McCorkle pointed out in his interview that the ICS industry is not mature when it comes to security programs, so coming up with a solid bounty program is going to take some work.