Intel ups bug bounty programme reward to $250,000 in light of Meltdown and Spectre

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Chip giant Intel has announced it will award up to $250,000 to any security researcher who uncovers a new side-channel vulnerability in its processors, up from $100,000.

The reward is part of the firm's updated bug bounty programme, which it has switched from an invitation-only initiative to a public one in a bid to prevent any future Meltdown and Spectre-type exploits.

Announcing the re-purposed bug bounty programme, Intel said it will also increase the amount it awards for the discovery (and confidential reporting) of general security vulnerabilities to $100,000.

"Coordinated disclosure is widely regarded as the best way to responsibly protect customers from security exploits. It minimises the risk that exploitable information becomes publicly known before mitigations are available," said Intel's VP and GM of platform security, Rick Echevarria.

Echevarria believes that this form of "responsible and coordinated disclosure" will increase the likelihood that users will have solutions available when security issues are first published.

"Our Bug Bounty Program supports this objective by creating a process whereby the security research community can inform us, directly and in a timely fashion, about potential exploits that its members discover," he added.

"We believe these changes will enable us to more broadly engage the security research community, and provide better incentives for coordinated response and disclosure that help protect our customers and their data."

Intel said it will continue to make updates to the Bug Bounty programme in the future, as needed, to make it as effective as possible.

It's no surprise Intel is doing all it can to prevent any future Meltdown and Spectre debacles from happening. The chip company is being taken to court over the vulnerabilities found in its processors earlier this year, with plaintiffs in California, Oregon and Indiana all taking legal action against the firm.

The Meltdown and Spectre flaws, which are present in the vast majority of modern processors, could allow hackers to break into the devices and steal sensitive data. However, no data breaches have been reported as yet, even though the vulnerabilities exist in the majority of processors dating from 1995. The flaw wasn't reported until June last year, despite Intel knowing about it since before then.

The lawyers representing the Californian claimants think there will be more cases coming to light in the coming months, describing it as "one of the largest security flaws ever facing the American public". They are urging Intel to fix the problem and to offer those affected compensation for any losses that have occurred.