In the world of open source software bug hunting age is clearly not a factor. Alex Miller, a 12-year-old tech wiz from San Jose is proof of that after just receiving $3,000 from Mozilla. The check came in the post and was a reward for tracking down a critical security flaw in the Firefox web browser.
Mozilla recently increased the bounty for finding such bugs from $500 to $3,000 in an attempt to make it more worthwhile for people to spend their time looking for them. Alex set about tracking down any bug he could with 90 minute sessions each day. The first bug he submitted did not qualify for the reward, but 10 more days of hunting located a critical security flaw and the check was in the post.
According to Brandon Sterne, security program manager at Mozilla, what Alex achieved is not something just anyone can do:
The space of people that are contributing in this area is pretty small. This is a very niche technical area.
Alex is a technically gifted young student with his mother stating he is self-taught, reads technical books with instant understanding, and is quite adept at building robots too. He’s also currently learning to speak Mandarin.
Alex, like a lot of kids gifted in a specific area, achieve what they do because they are not only adept but passionate about what they are undertaking. Enjoyment is half the battle and if that continues he has a very bright future in the computing field ahead of him.
$3,000 when you’re 12 is a lot of money and I’m glad to see him banking some of it. He’s destined for college and university, both of which are a lot easier to enjoy with some money in the bank. I suspect he won’t just be relying on that one check from Mozilla, though. Being rewarded for this first discovery will act as an incentive to go bug hunting again. We wish him all the best and as a Firefox user I thank him for finding the bug and making the browser that much more secure.