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West Bank Man Hacks Zuckerberg
West Bank Man Hacks Zuckerberg's Facebook Page

By Adam Dickter
August 19, 2013 4:28PM

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Facebook is in a tough position with the volume of reports it gets, but if you want to serve as 1 billion people's social life, you need to invest in appropriate security staffing levels. Facebook likes to compare itself to a nation-state, so a national defense is an important investment. Perhaps one it should take more seriously.
 



Mark Zuckerberg surely did not click the like button after a status on the social media king's Facebook page last week warned him, in undeniable fashion, of a security vulnerability.

Using only a dilapidated laptop at his home in the Palestinian territories, Khalil Shreateh figured out a vulnerability, which he has not publicly disclosed, that allows any Facebook user to post a message on anyone else's page without his permission, CNN reported.

Facebook said it wanted to investigate the flaw -- which could allow millions of Facebook users to freely advertise products or services, or just cause mayhem with people who have not accepted their friend requests -- but it did not have enough information.

Try And Try Again

Shreateh, who lives near Hebron and is looking for a computer-related job, insists he tried to warn Facebook's security division, to no avail, forcing him to unleash the attention-getting stunt.

Shreateh wrote about the exploit in a blog post and made a YouTube video about it. On the blog he included an exchange of emails, including a link to a post he said he made on the page of Sarah Goodin, a Harvard classmate of Zuckerberg's. The supposed response from Facebook was that the link he sent didn't work.

After a second attempt, he then did the same to Zuckerberg's page, he said.

The illicit message, which did not appear on Zuckerberg's page when we checked on Monday afternoon reads: "First sorry for breaking your privacy and post to your wall . . . I [had] no other choice to make after all the reports I made to Facebook team." Numerous websites captured images of the post before it was taken down.

Shreateh also posted an Enrique Iglesias music video to make his point. Although Facebook offers cash rewards for reports of legitimate vulnerabilities, unauthorized postings violate the company's terms of service, so Shreateh won't be getting any cash. Instead, his account was suspended, but later reinstated.

In fairness, Facebook's security team likely gets more security reports than it can quickly handle given its massive user base of around 1 billion accounts worldwide. But the easy hack creates the perception that the tech giant is more focused on ways to monetize the site to boost its unstable stock price than on beefing up security for users.

"Facebook is in a tough position with the volume of reports they get, but if you want to serve as 1 billion people's social life, you need to invest in appropriate security staffing levels," Chester Wisniewski, a senior analyst at the global cybersecurity firm Sophos told us.

"They like to compare themselves to a nation-state, so a national defense is an important investment," he said. "Perhaps one they should take more seriously."

In response to our emailed request for comment, Facebook spokesman Fred Wolens referred us to a post in a Hacker News forum by MK Jones, who works on a Facebook security team that investigates bug reports under the White Hat program.

Needed More Info

"[W]e get hundreds of reports every day," Jones said. "Many of our best reports come from people whose English isn't great -- though this can be challenging, it's something we work with just fine and we have paid out over $1 million to hundreds of reporters."

Though he said the information was sketchy Jones said, "We should have pushed back asking for more details here." He added that testing bugs with other people's accounts is a serious no-no, and that Facebook provides a way to create test accounts to show flaws "to help facilitate responsible research and testing."
 

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