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The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Curl Development

May 17, 2024

The Reality of Bug Bounties in the Age of AI

In the realm of software development, the introduction of bug bounties has been a revolutionary step, offering monetary rewards to those who identify and report security vulnerabilities. This approach has drawn a diverse group of individuals, ranging from those meticulously analyzing source code to those who employ simpler methods like pattern searching. The Curl project, a widely used tool for transferring data with URL syntax, has implemented this system, and it has generally been effective in identifying genuine issues without being overwhelmed by trivial or irrelevant reports.

Over the years, Curl's bug bounty program has allocated over $70,000 in rewards, processing around 415 vulnerability reports. Out of these, 64 were significant security issues, while 77 provided informative insights, often highlighting bugs or related concerns. Interestingly, a substantial portion of the reports - nearly two-thirds - were neither critical security risks nor typical bugs.

The Increasing Challenge of Sophisticated 'Crap' Reports

A growing concern in this landscape is the emergence of higher-quality but ultimately unhelpful reports. These reports, often well-crafted and seemingly valid, demand significant time and resources from developers to assess and eventually dismiss. The sophistication of these submissions means that they take more time to analyze, diverting attention from productive development and other vital tasks like addressing significant bugs or enhancing features.

The essence of the problem lies in the nature of these reports. They may appear as legitimate concerns but upon deeper examination, reveal themselves to be baseless. This not only hampers the progress of addressing real issues but also drains the energy and focus of developers.

The Role of AI in Generating Security Reports

The advent of Large Language Models (LLMs) like GPT-3 and Google's Bard has added a new dimension to this challenge. These powerful AI tools, while capable of producing coherent and sophisticated text, are now being used by some to generate security vulnerability reports. These AI-generated reports often blend copied user language with AI output, creating a complex mix that is initially harder to recognize as invalid.

Case Studies: From Obvious Hallucinations to Subtle Misdirection

Exhibit A: The Misleading Disclosure Claim

A notable instance occurred in late 2023, when a report was submitted claiming that code changes for a high-severity vulnerability (CVE-2023-38545) had been prematurely disclosed online. This report, later revealed to be AI-generated, combined elements from previous security issues to create a non-existent problem. The AI's involvement was openly acknowledged by the user, aiding in the quick dismissal of the report.

Exhibit B: The Buffer Overflow Mirage

A more intricate example was a report filed about a supposed buffer overflow vulnerability in Curl's WebSocket handling. Despite its detailed and professional presentation, including a proposed fix, this report turned out to be unfounded. It was not immediately clear if AI had been used, but the nature of the communication suggested it might have been.

The Dilemma of Dealing with AI-Generated Reports

Differentiating between AI-assisted and purely human-generated reports poses a challenge. Often, non-native English speakers might use AI as a tool for better communication or translation, which is entirely legitimate. The problem arises when AI is used to fabricate issues, leading to well-constructed but ultimately baseless reports.

Curl's response to these challenges has been measured. While there is no direct way to ban reporters on platforms like Hackerone, repeated instances of irrelevant reports do lead to a decrease in a reporter's reputation. However, this is a mild deterrent and doesn't entirely address the growing influx of AI-generated reports.

Looking Ahead: The Future of AI in Security Reporting

The increasing prevalence of AI-generated reports necessitates a better detection mechanism, balancing the dismissal of false reports with the recognition of legitimate ones, possibly aided by AI. While the potential for AI to contribute positively in identifying security issues is acknowledged, its current misuse underscores the need for a human element in evaluating reports.

The future will likely see more sophisticated AI tools designed for security purposes, but the necessity for human oversight will remain paramount. As AI becomes more accessible and easy to use, the Curl project anticipates a rise in AI-generated reports, underscoring the need for vigilance and efficient management of these submissions.


The integration of AI in security reporting within the Curl project highlights the dual nature of technological advancements: while offering potential benefits, they also bring new challenges that require careful management and oversight. The journey ahead in the realm of AI and security reporting is one of cautious optimism, balanced with a realistic acknowledgment of the obstacles it presents.

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