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“Like” Facebook’s response to Disclosure Fail

By Mike Rothman

Every company makes mistakes, especially when it comes to researchers disclosing security bugs and/or vulnerabilities. And when the frustrated researcher goes public and makes a scene, the company has a few choices.

  1. Break out the lawyers.
  2. Throw mud at the researcher in the press.
  3. Own the mistake and try to fix it.

Yes there are other options. But we tend to see #1 and #2 a lot more than we see #3. Which is why I “like” (to use Facebook’s terminology) how they responded to the issue. The researcher in question basically showed how he could post to Zuckerberg’s timeline (yes, the CEO). That would usually cause some lawyerly type of activity from a company. But this was their response:

I’ve reviewed our communication with this researcher, and I understand his frustration. He tried to report the bug responsibly, and we failed in our communication with him.

Um, that’s pretty clear. Facebook accepted responsibility. They took their lumps, which is what they should do. They did explain that there wasn’t sufficient detail in the bug report, so it got routed incorrectly. But all the same, they didn’t shy away from their part in the situation.

But far too many company’s don’t do that. But it gets better because Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s CSO, commits to a few changes to the program.

We will make two changes as a result of this case: (1) We will improve our email messaging to make sure we clearly articulate what we need to validate a bug, and (2) we will update our whitehat page with more information on the best ways to submit a bug report.

Now they still won’t pay a bounty because the vulnerability was proven against a real user (yes the CEO). But some folks in the security community, lead by Marc Maiffret, banded together and raised over $12K for the guy anyway. Win win. Which rarely happens when you are talking about vulnerability disclosure.

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