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The electronics giant Nintendo is offering to reward hackers for breaking into its new 3DS system. There is a $20,000 (just under £15,750) top prize on offer, along with smaller prizes, depending on how successful hackers are at reporting bugs or faults in the system. The plan is to crowdsource testing of the system using the online community’s skills and vast numbers to check the platform’s stability.

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HackerOne, a San Francisco-based company that manages system vulnerabilities, reported the Nintendo offer at the start of December 2016. The challenge gives hackers the opportunity to use their skills and get paid handsomely for the privilege.

Bugs for bounty

The idea behind the bugs for bounty move is simple. Nintendo wants to find weaknesses and faults in its 3DS handheld system to improve the player experience whilst gaming, of course, but also needs to secure its system against malicious hacks and cybercrime. This is of real concern when digital payments are being processed through Nintendo’s app store. Excellent security needs to be tested and in place to reassure users that their details are safe.

Using the online community as a software testing service is not a new idea, of course. Netscape introduced a bugs for bounties system back in the 90s that rewarded users who found problems in its systems. Scroll on 20 years and this type of crowdsourcing is now commonplace in the market. Organisations such as Facebook, Twitter, Adobe, Slack and LinkedIn have all used bugs for bounty offers to improve their systems; in addition, there are now companies devoted to providing testing solutions to the market, such as https://www.bugfinders.com.

Tangible benefits of testing

Whilst the primary motivation is revenue generation through Nintendo’s online store, there are other obvious benefits from the programme for Nintendo’s users. The challenge is one way in which Nintendo can deal with 3DS modding and cheats that can proliferate on some games and ruin player immersion and experience. Added to this is the ability for Nintendo to control information being shared on its system and to minimise the chance of inappropriate content being seen or shared by minors.

If you fancy using your hacking skills to legitimately make some cash, why not give the Nintendo challenge a try?