Facebook bug could give spammers names, photos

Facebook says it is working to fix the issue

Facebook is scrambling to fix a bug in its website that could be misused by spammers to harvest user names and photographs.

It turns out that if someone enters the e-mail address of a Facebook user along with the wrong password, Facebook returns a special "Please re-enter your password" page, which includes the Facebook photo and full name of the person associated with the address.

The feature helps people understand if they've mistyped their e-mail address at login, but it could be misused by spammers to get information on Facebook's 500 million users.

A spammer with an e-mail list could write a script that enters the e-mail addresses into Facebook and then logs the real names. This could help make a phishing attack more realistic, said Atul Agarwal, the researcher who posted a note about the issue (along with a sample script that could harvest names) to the Full Disclosure mailing list on Tuesday.

Someone could also use the feature to generate random e-mail addresses and check to see if they really worked, Agarwal said.

The login page shows images of people, even when they've properly set their privacy settings to keep this information private, said Agarwal. "Harvesting this data is very easy," he said.

Facebook blamed the issue on a recently introduced bug.

"We have technical systems in place to prevent people's names and photos from showing to unrelated users upon login, but a recently introduced bug temporarily prevented these from working as intended," a company spokeswoman said in an e-mail message. "We are already working on a fix and expect to remedy the situation shortly."

Scraping Facebook for this type of information is prohibited, she added.

Scammers have taken a special interest in Facebook over the past few years, and criminals such as the people who wrote the Koobface worm may well take an interest in the bug, said Roger Thompson, chief research officer with antivirus vendor AVG.

"I would expect that the Koobface gang will be racing to try to take advantage of this before Facebook patches it," he said via instant message. "It'll be interesting to see who wins."

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags exploits and vulnerabilitiesInternet-based applications and servicessecurityinternetFacebook

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Robert McMillan

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts