Brandon Reynolds is a hardware expert and IoT specialist. He’s been a key participant in multiple Bugcrowd Bug Bash’s and his supportive nature, friendly attitude, and work ethic leaves a great lasting impression with everyone he meets. Read on to learn more about how Brandon balances hacking, a security career, and a family in this hacker spotlight!

Brandon’s “hacking origin story”

Brandon grew up in central Illinois, surrounded by cornfields, cornfields, and more cornfields. While this meant that there wasn’t much to do, it did mean that he had a lot of time growing up to dedicate to programming and security. 

When he was roughly 14 years old, he wanted to understand how his game consoles and other electronics worked at the lowest levels. Disassembling video games, PC applications, and other software or firmware led him to software development, and eventually to a full time focus on cybersecurity. “If I hadn’t been so interested in how everything worked as a child, I likely wouldn’t have developed the early knowledge required to do all of the unique things I can today,” Brandon says. When he was around 16 years old, he wrote a video game software that was sold at stores like Walmart. Impressive! 

Brandon is very family-oriented and loves to spend time with his wife, two children, and two golden retrievers. Brandon got married in “The Valley of Fire,” which he jokes “sounds like the last place you should get married.” When describing his love story, he says, “I married my best friend—a woman who grew up in the same exact bedroom that I did. My mother bought her first home from my wife’s mother when I was about 15 years old and my wife was around 14. I moved into the room of the woman I’d one day marry before we had ever met. Just short of 10 years later, we began dating and were expecting our first child. It’s crazy how small the world is!”

While raising his family, he’s focused on software development for a steadier income, which has taken away some of his time from performing R&D in security, but he still finds the time to do what he loves. 

In his spare time, Brandon likes checking out new music. “I used to enjoy mostly rock and metal genres. Today, I’ve opened my tastes a bit more and have acquired a great deal of new genres, bands, and songs I never thought I’d enjoy!  It’s wonderful to respect the Top 100 but also enjoy a new EP from an underground metal band.” Rock on, Brandon!

Hacking specialties, tools, tips, and lessons learned

Check out our interview with Brandon below for more about Brandon’s specialities and methodologies, advice to get started, and hacking tips. 

What do you specialize in?

“I like to claim I specialize in embedded development and IoT/Hardware. However, to take on these technologies you have to have a solid understanding of various other areas (mobile, cloud, etc.).“

What methodologies do you use?

“I don’t have a specific methodology I incorporate. I tend to focus on many different pieces of hardware at once. If I get stuck with a particular problem or hurdle, I switch to a separate device altogether. It has both pros and cons; it makes it easy to let a project sit for too long or cause me to take much longer than I had hoped when I go to switch back and remember everything involved in where I left off.”

How long have you been hunting?

“I started in 2020, about when Covid started. In general, finding security bugs was always a big puzzle to me. If it’s built by humans, there’s always mistakes.”

How much time do you spend hacking each week?

“Part time. I have a 9-5 where I’m a Principal Security Architect and a third where I’m CSO. I spend most of my late evenings focused on bounties.”

What has been your biggest challenge while hacking? 

“The largest challenge has been learning to shut my brain off when tackling a new system. I’ll often leave my bed, go to my office, and try something that comes to mind. It’s always a good feeling to solve a difficult problem.”

Do you have any favorite tools or resources? 

“In the hardware world, there are so many tools that are not only necessities but derivatives of one another (like Serial/UART adapters). If I had to pick one, it would be my Saleae Logic Analyzer.”

Do you have any advice for new hackers?

“Study software development if you’ve never programmed. It will help a great deal if you need to better understand how or why a specific functionality may work.”

What’s an important lesson that you wish you learned early on in your hacking career? 

“I should have focused more on my structure and methods used when authoring reports. The report is just as important as the vulnerability. If the customer can’t follow, then it’s just as bad as not finding the issue in the first place.”

By the way, we have something that can help with that HERE 😎

You’ve done so much in the hacking space already! What’s next for you?

“I hope to continue building my own security company that has a hardware focus.“

Hacking is strenuous work. How do you avoid burnout? 

“Stick to a specific number of hours a day or week and don’t think about the projects outside those times. I take time for myself where I can zone out or simply go for a walk. Cybersecurity can certainly take a toll on you and your immediate family if you aren’t careful.”

What are some goals you have for this year?

“I hope to take my daughter on a trip that I promised her if she got straight As through primary school. She pulled it off and bounties provide the extra income for us to do so.”

What is your ideal career?

“None! Retirement!”

Hacking impact

In the three years that Brandon has been hacking, he’s already earned life-changing rewards. The bug bounties he has received paid for nearly his entire wedding and a new car (all from a single program)! “I’ll always be thankful for the rewards given for helping companies secure their products,” Brandon said. 

We love working with Brandon here at Bugcrowd, and we’re happy to hear that the feeling is mutual! When asked why he hunts with Bugcrowd, Brandon says, “I’ve gotten to know so many people (both hackers and Bugcrowd employees). They’ve all treated me with respect. Getting to work with others that are certainly more skilled is humbling and provides the chance to learn a great deal about certain areas I have potentially overlooked or could optimize.” 

Thank you so much, Brandon! We’ve really enjoyed getting to know you on and off the hardware. Follow us on X, Instagram and Discord for updates on hacker content and events!