Application Security

9/12/2017
04:30 PM
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Shopify Risk Director Talks Ecommerce, Bug Bounty Program

Andrew Dunbar shares his experience growing a retail-focused security team, and combating the many threats facing online merchants and their customers.

As the retail space becomes more technology-dependent, security has grown as a selling point for online merchants and customers. It's a priority at Shopify, which protected sales from more than 130 million purchases in their half-million merchant base this past year. To date, it has protected over $40B in sales.

"It's a priority at Shopify, which protected sales from more than 130 million purchases in their half million merchant base this past year. To date, Shopify has protected over $40 billion in sales on their platform."

Andrew Dunbar was the only security employee at Shopify when he joined as a security operations engineer in May 2012. Now its director of risk and compliance, he discusses the process of growing a security team and threats shaping security for ecommerce companies.

Dark Reading: Let's start with security concerns among major retail and ecommerce companies. How has the landscape changed?

Andrew Dunbar: More people are moving to a multichannel ecommerce landscape. Security vulnerabilities exist in the platforms they use and websites they run on. People share credit card information and personal information with ecommerce companies, and there are lots of targeted attacks where credentials have been exposed through breaches to other platforms.

Online retailers have to protect the security of accounts customers use for service providers in banking, email, and ecommerce. Trust with customers is always the most important thing for protecting their brand and ensuring great relationships with their customers.

DR: What are some of the ways you build that level of trust with Shopify's merchants and their customers?

AD: When Shopify makes security decisions, they are deployed to all 500,000 stores on its platform. One of the things we've deployed recently is Apple Pay, which is something available to all merchants. It mitigates the risk of credit card data being obtained because there's no data flowing -- it's not potentially intercepted by malware or another security vulnerability.

Shopify also integrates social media where people shop. Rather than paying the merchant directly, customers can use the Facebook button to buy without entering credit card data. They don't need to worry about sharing their card info with someone they've never interacted with, because on social it's secured on the back end. Minimizing the times people need to type their credit card information results in fewer compromises of that data.

DR: You've played a major role in creating Shopify's infosec team and driving security initiatives. What was your goal when you joined the company?

AD: I was actually the first person to do security - when I joined, I was a team of one. People recognized the importance of security but didn't have a dedicated focus on it. I quickly realized when trying to build the team that the biggest way to have effective security was to have security embedded in the company. At the time, Shopify only had a few thousand merchants on the platform, and we knew the amount of trust they were placing in us.

DR: One of the major projects you drove was Shopify's bug bounty program. Can you talk about how that has grown?

AD: The bug bounty program started when I arrived. We had a page on the site that gave people instructions on submitting a report, and we got a few. The first swag we gave out was to a local in Ottawa; we invited them to come have lunch at our office.

After running with that page for a while, we decided to create a more structured program. Shopify already has a developer community where people can create and test online stores. It expanded this program to add a new type of "white hat" partner, who could create stores with the same infrastructure as merchants. This provided a means for bug hunters to test vulnerabilities without affecting any of Shopify's users.

In 2015 we wanted to increase visibility, so we partnered with HackerOne, which blew up interest in our program. It increased responses, and we saw more high-quality reports.

DR: Did you notice any other benefits to the program?

AD: One of the things we can do is use bug bounty programs as a public voice to demonstrate cultural values we hold and how seriously we take security. About one-third of our application security team has submitted vulnerabilities to us, though not all via HackerOne. Any part of hiring is establishing a brand and saying this is the kind of place where people who want to solve security problems would want to work.

DR: What would be your advice to a business interested in launching a bug bounty program?

AD: Start with a private program and fewer researchers so you get a sense of the types of reports you'll receive. We ran our program for about a year so we knew which reports were valid. If you go public, be ready to handle a massive surge in reports.

Scope is incredibly important. Make sure you know what properties are going to be in scope; which vulnerabilities you'll accept. Be aware of design decisions that could be perceived as security risks. Having credibility with researchers and being consistent with payouts both need to be priority.

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Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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