When you hear people talk about hackers you will often hear them split into two different categories. One of the categories that you will hear about is the illegal side of hacking. These groups of people are what are traditionally known as black hat hackers. The other side you will hear about when it comes to hacking is the good guys. These guys are known as the white hat side of hacking. While some times these groups paths will intertwine on a social level, for the most part they are always working against each other. One side is trying to stop the other side from being able to complete their goals.
You may be able to use your imagination and figure out how a hacker on the black hat side of things is able to get paid. You probably are not quite sure how a hacker on the white side is able to get paid, or at least make as much money as the black hat side. Well, most of the time these guys are paid by working for a company and trying to help protect their systems. Or those companies are contracted and help protect many different systems. But another way that white hat hackers are able to earn money is through the use of the many different contests that happen each year.
In the past when a white hat hacker would find an exploit and told the company whose software had the exploit about it, they would look at the person suspiciously. Often they would get mad at the person and report them to the police. That is no longer the case. Now many of these same companies will offer rewards to the hacker who finds a serious bug in their software. They realize that it is cheaper in the long run to keep these guys on the right side of the law for as long as they can.
Google also has this same thought process and they show it in many different ways. They offer a yearlong bug bounty. They also offer a contest called Pwnium in order for white hackers to be able to compete against each other. This contest allows the person who is able to show the worst bug in Chrome to win up to $60,000. While Google has sponsored other contest such as Pwn2Own in the past, but this year they decided to go on their own.