Article Lead Image

PayPal refuses to pay 17-year-old security researcher

When Robert Kugler reported a bug to PayPal, he was hoping to get paid as part of the company's bounty program.


Fidel Martinez


Posted on May 28, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 2:47 pm CDT

When Robert Kugler reported a bug to PayPal, he was hoping to get paid as part of the company’s bounty program. But the eBay-owned company rebuffed him. He was 17—underage.

On May 19, Kugler, a security researcher from Germany, notified PayPal of a cross-site scripting (XSS) flaw that would permit anyone who exploited it to steal sensitive information. For a site that deals in financial transactions, this is not an insignificant vulnerability.

According to PC World, eBay officials notified Kugler via email that because he was under 18, he was in violation of its guidelines for security researchers. It’s worth noting the company’s site doesn’t actually mention the age restriction. 

For his part, Kugler believes PayPal’s actions are setting a bad precedent and that they’ll only discourage others from finding and reporting vulnerabilities.

“It’s not the best idea when you’re interested in motivated security researchers,” he wrote in his report on security researcher site

The PayPal exploit isn’t the first security find for Kugler. Companies like Microsoft and Mozilla—makers of the Firefox browser—have compensated him for discovering and reporting bugs.

UPDATE: PayPal denies that Kugler’s age was at issue. Actually, another researcher beat him to the punch. Here’s the company’s  statement:

In this specific situation, the cross-site scripting vulnerability was already discovered by another security researcher, so [the bug] would not have been eligible for payment, regardless of age [of the researcher], as we must honor the original researcher that provided the vulnerability.

Photo via Liz Wise/Flickr

Share this article
*First Published: May 28, 2013, 4:12 pm CDT