Facebook Fixes Bug That Could Turn On Users' Webcams Without Their Knowledge

By Alexandra Burlacu email: a.burlacu@mobilenapps.com | Jan 02, 2013 08:38 PM EST

Facebook has patched a security flaw that would have allowed hackers to turn on users' webcams without their permission and post videos to users' profiles.

Two computer-security researchers with the XY Security firm in India found this vulnerability back in July, and received $2,500 each for finding the bug.

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XY Security founders Aditya Gupta and Subho Halder found the bug and reported their findings to Facebook, which in turn paid them $2,500 each for the information, said Facebook spokesman Fred Wolens, according to Bloomberg.

The two researchers who found the bug said the company paid them five times its usual price, which must indicate that Facebook found this particular bug to be "serious." Facebook is one of the few tech companies encouraging outsiders to hack into their products and services in return for payouts. Google and Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, have the same practice, while other companies such as Microsoft have refused to offer "bug bounties" to reward criminals.

According to Wolens, Facebook conducted an investigation upon learning about the vulnerability, but found that no users seemed to be affected. The company has now patched the bug to eliminate the threat.

"This vulnerability, like many others we provide a bounty for, was only theoretical, and we have seen no evidence that it has been exploited in the wild," Wolens told Bloomberg in an e-mailed statement.

"Essentially, several things would need to go wrong - a user would need to be tricked into visiting a malicious page and clicking to activate their camera, and then after some time period, tricked into clicking again to stop/publish the video," added the spokesman.

While it seems like a complicated and farfetched process, companies are typically very sensitive to any matters associated with users' webcam - and they should be. User privacy is a priority, and stealing video of a user without their consent or knowledge raises privacy concerns to a whole new level, even if the said video is not published. The mere thought of having someone peep through the webcam without the user's knowledge is enough to give one the creeps. The actual possibility is even more appalling. Facebook has had its share of criticism over user privacy, but none to this level.

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