An Indian white hat hacker has revealed a vulnerability that granted him the means to hack into any Facebook user’s account. However, being the white hat that he is, the hacker promptly alerted Facebook who duly granted him a bug bounty of $15,000. It’s a good thing he’s a white hat, he could’ve made millions as a malicious hacker.
Security researcher Anand Prakash from Bangalore, India has revealed a proof-of-concept hack that enabled him to plausibly hack any Facebook user’s profile. The ‘simple vulnerability’ as he called it, was revealed in a blog post that’s scarily titled “How I could have hacked all Facebook accounts.”
In the blog post, the white hat claimed that he gained full access to another user’s Facebook account without the need for any interaction. The means to gain access was achieved through resetting a new password. The flaw, Prakash discovered, was the way in which certain Facebook-beta URLs were lacking routine cybersecurity measures.
With the exploit, Prakash was able to view a profile’s messages, credit/debit card details stored in the payments section of the profile, personal photos and more. Essentially, he had gained complete access to the account.
The Facebook Hack
Facebook routinely texts or emails a one-time password in the form of a six-digit confirmation code to users who seek to reset their passwords, usually after forgetting the password.
Once the code is delivered, Facebook allows the user a limited number of attempts to enter the code correctly, as a security measure. This is called rate-limiting. The method is to prevent identity theft hackers from gaining access to a user’s account if they were allowed unlimited attempts to enter the reset code for a new password. Unlimited attempts, by way of brute force techniques.
While Facebook’s main website unsurprisingly implements rate-limiting, its beta websites (beta.facebook.com), do not. When Prakash discovered this, he proceeded to brute force his ways with an unlimited number of attempts with multiple attempts to gain access to the account. His proof of concept is shown below.
Prakash revealed that he notified Facebook of the vulnerability on February 22nd before the fix was then verified by the researcher the very next day. Come March 2, a bounty of $15,000 was awarded to the Indian white hat.
For saving the social media company from a huge PR disaster, his alert was worth a whole lot more than the $15,000.
Featured image from Shutterstock.