Security researcher Arul Kumar has earned $12,500 after reporting a dramatic Facebook bug that allowed anyone with the right know-how to delete any image stored within the social network, no matter who owned the image in the first place.
The bug worked through Facebook's Support Dashboard, the system that let interested parties send official requests to take down photos. During the original setup of this system, two critical numbers, the Photo_id number and the user's profile ID number, could be exploited by a hacker to intercept the take-down procedure without the photo owner's knowledge. The same exploit could be used to pull photos from pages and groups as well as directly from a user's profile. While the bug seems innocuous, particularly for individual users, there's still a malicious element that could have damaged the archives of users who exploit Facebook as a kind of photo storage mechanism (and thus a bigger potential to damage Facebook's reputation with users) and also to hurt the efforts of brands that use Facebook for outreach.
Last month, a hacker posted to Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook wall in an effort to expose a security hole. These kinds of Facebook bugs are a sensitive topic because of the social network's huge international reach and because we use it to share so much sensitive data about our lives. This information sensitivity plays very much into questions about surveillance of users' online lives—particularly in terms of recent revelations about Facebook's face-recognition plans for user-uploaded images.
[Image via Flickr user: Johan Hansson]