I decided to take another shot at Facebook’s Security Bug Bounty program. This time I ended up finding a bug that allowed a website to use Facebook to detect if their visitors were particular people. After doing a write-up and submitting it to Facebook’s security team, I was awarded a $1,000 bounty. Below I’ll go into how I came across the issue and how the technique worked. Also, I don’t see myself going full-on bug hunter after this or anything like that, this has mostly just been a random side-adventure that came from me being inspired by some random blogs I read on bug hunting and application security.
How it worked
I noticed that the preview-image for a Facebook Badge was dynamically generated based on a user’s Facebook ID. There were some other configuration parameters, but for simplification, you can imagine the HTML looking something like this:
<img src=”https://facebook.com/badge_edit.php?id=12345″ />
When rendered, the image would look something like Figure 1. Since it could contain a user’s email address, my first instinct was to see if I could load other users’ badge previews and get their email addresses. However, when I tried this, a Facebook logo image loaded instead of the profile image (Figure 2).
This had a lot of interesting use cases. Someone could:
- See if a particular acquaintance (boss, ex-girl friend, frenemy) was stalking their Facebook feed or reading their blog.
- See if someone famous was visiting their site.
- Track the actions of certain people.
- Show different content depending on who was visiting.
The one limitation was that someone could only check against a list of certain people, but there are only so many people someone can know, and targeted attacks are for particular people anyway.
Submitting the Bug
It was 1am Monday morning when I found this bug. When I realized what I could do with it, I had a rush of adrenaline and stayed up another 3 hours coding up a proof of concept and submitting a bug report. I really should have just gone to bed and wrote the report the following day (I’m supposed to be in at work by 9am), but it felt sort of like when you’re on the last level of a video game and your mind is buzzing with “holy crap, I’m going to beat the game!”
Similar to my last report, it took around two weeks for a security analyst to get back to me, and similar to last time, I was told it was interesting but that they needed to check with their engineering team. I was a little worried at this response – however, I felt that this time I’d found something that was really cool. Hell, it’s something that I would be tempted to use.
About a week later I noticed the bug was fixed and I received an email asking me to verify the fix. I did a few tests and then let them know that everything checked out. Shortly after this I got an email from the security team letting me know I was eligible for a $1,000 payout and that I needed to fill out a W-9.
In addition to Facebook, I also tried the white hat programs of a few other sites, and even ended up making Google’s honorable mention list and earning Reddit’s white hat profile badge. However, even though getting a little bit of recognition and pocket change is fun, I don’t think I’m cut out for bug hunting. I’m glad I did it since I learned a little more about security, but it’s a lot of work for very little return, and after you’ve submitted your find, you’re back to where you started. Even though it was kind of fun, I think my foray into bug hunting is over.