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The bug that could have deleted any public photo on Facebook

The bug that could have deleted any public photo on Facebook

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This week, a researcher named Laxman Muthiyah discovered a bug that let him delete any photo album on Facebook, and walked away with $12,500 for his trouble. The bug targeted Facebook's Graph API, which lets users delete their own photo albums with a single command, corresponding to the "delete album" button. Because of a mistake on Facebook's part, that request could potentially target any album on the network that the user had access to view, as long as the user was logged in through the mobile version of the API. After some troubleshooting, Muthiyah settled on the following request as the silver bullet for deleting any album off the network:

Request :-
DELETE /518171421550249 HTTP/1.1
Host :
Content-Length: 245
access_token= facebook_for_android_access_tokenMuthiyah reported the vulnerability to Facebook and the company wrote back in just two hours, saying the bug was fixed and offering him $12,500 through Facebook's bug bounty program. Presumably, the fix was simple — altering the mobile app permissions was likely enough — but it's a reminder of how much damage even a small bug can do. Sophos has already speculated that the bug could have been used to delete every photo on Facebook, but such an attack would be unlikely, since the bug does not seem to have allowed for access to any private accounts. Luckily, Muthiyah did the right thing and reported the bug, walking away with a sizable reward. "We received a report about an issue with our Graph API and quickly fixed it within two hours of verifying the claims," said a Facebook representative. "We’d like to thank the researcher who reported the issue to us through our bug bounty program."

February 12th, 2015, 2:41PM ET: Updated with Facebook quote and more information on the limitations of the bug.