UK Researcher Lands $20,000 For Finding Glaring Facebook Flaw

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Flaw could have allowed easy account hijacking over a mobile phone

A serious flaw in Facebook that could have allowed widespread account hijacking has been uncovered by a UK researcher, who has been rewarded with $20,000.

The vulnerability, which has now been fixed, was a particularly nasty one and easy to exploit. It allowed for a “full takeover of any Facebook account, with no user interaction”, researcher Jack Whitton, also known as fin1te, wrote in their blog.

Facebook vulnerability

Facebook, mobile © Annette Shaff Shutterstock 2012The problem lay in how Facebook let users login to their accounts on a mobile using their number rather than their normal login details.

When Whitton texted Facebook with a simple “F” to get the verification code needed to get the mobile login feature, he was asked to enter that code into a form. But that form contained a flaw, which allowed him to change the profile_id parameter so he could link any user with his authorisation code, therefore opening accounts up for hijacking.

“To exploit this bug, we first send the letter F to 32665, which is Facebook’s SMS shortcode in the UK. We receive an 8 character verification code back,” he explained in a blog post.

“We enter this code into the activation box (located here), and modify the profile_id element inside the fbMobileConfirmationForm form.”

Once Facebook sent back an SMS confirming the code had been linked to an account, Whitton realised he could initiate a password reset to hijack the target’s account.

“The bounty assigned to this bug was $20,000, clearly demonstrating the severity of the issue,” he added.

The news came just days after Facebook admitted another flaw had leaked around six million users’ contact information and an unconfirmed number of non-Facebook users.

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