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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags internetFacebookexploits and vulnerabilitiesInternet-based applications and services

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?