A Facebook user on the hunt for a bug bounty posted comments on Mark Zuckerberg’s wall to prove he had an exploit for a bug in the social network -- but Facebook will not pay him because it says he broke its terms of service.
Facebook briefly suspended the account of Khalil Shreateh, a Palestinian IT expert, after he chose Zuckerberg’s wall to prove his claim that a bug allowed anyone to post comments or links on another person’s wall -- a feature normally only available to friends.
In a blog post, Shreateh explained he used Zuckerberg’s wall to escalate a report he initially submitted through Facebook’s WhiteHat bounty program, which offers a minimum $500 reward for certain bugs. According to Shreateh, Facebook’s security team did not treat his initial reports seriously.
Shreateh’s initial report contained a link to a post on the wall of Sarah Goodin -- Zuckerberg’s friend and the first Facebook user -- showing a YouTube link he claimed to have posted on her timeline, accompanied by a screenshot of his post to her wall.
Facebook’s security team denied it was a bug since attempting to open the link only returned an error page.
In a second report, Shreateh explained that Facebook’s security team would not have been able to open the page since Goodin’s timeline was closed to anyone outside her network. He was able to view the post because he posted the link even though he was not her friend.
However, again, a Facebook security team member simply replied: “I am sorry this is not a bug”. Shreateh then replied he had “no [other] choice than to post to Mark Zuckerberg’s timeline”, which he later did, detailing his Facebook WhiteHat ordeal on Zuckerberg’s timeline.
This time Facebook took note and moments later Facebook software engineer Ola Okelola contacted Shreateh asking for further details about the exploit. Shreateh says he explained the exploit after which Facebook swiftly disabled his account.
An email purportedly from a Facebook security engineer “Joshua”, responding to Shreateh’s request to re-enable his account, finally confirmed he had found a vulnerability. However the engineer said Shreateh was ineligible for the bounty reward as his actions had violated its terms of service.
Although Facebook did not specify which term he had violated, Facebook does note that bug bounty hunters are not to interact with other accounts without the consent of their owners if they wish to qualify for a reward.
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