Facebook has faced multiple challenges over the course of 2018 as it has struggled with inauthentic user behavior, abuse of private information and outright attacks where user accounts were hijacked.
In an effort to improve user account security and mitigate hijacking threats, Facebook announced on Nov. 20 that it is increasing the awards it pays out to security researchers for responsibly disclosing flaws. The increases come via Facebook's bug bounty program, which provides financial rewards for researchers who report issues to the social networking giant.
"Today, to encourage security researchers to work on finding high impact issues, we are increasing the average payout for account takeover bugs," Facebook's Bug Bounty team wrote in a note. "Our goal is to ensure that these vulnerabilities such as the one disclosed in September are reported to us in the most responsible and timely manner."
Facebook reported on Sept. 28 that it was the victim of data breach, where unknown attackers were able to get access to user accounts via a series of three different bugs. Initially, Facebook reset the accounts of 90 million users, expecting that at least 50 million were impacted. On Oct. 12, after further investigation, Facebook revised the impact of the data breach down to 30 million users.
According to Facebook, the breach started out with an initial group of 400,000 seed accounts that were able to use an automated script to collect user access tokens. From there, the attack spread laterally across Facebook to snare user information, including name and contact details.
Facebook to date has not publicly attributed the attack to any individual or group and has only stated that it is working with law enforcement and the FBI as part of an ongoing investigation.
Facebook has had a bug bounty program since 2011 and has steadily increased the awards it pays out over the years. In 2017, Facebook awarded researchers a total of $880,000 as part of its bug bounty program. The average reward payout in 2017 was $1,900, up from $1,675 in 2016.
For account takeovers, Facebook is now paying researchers an award of $40,000 for flaws where no user interaction is required. Facebook will pay $25,000 if only minimum user interaction is needed for the attack to achieve an account takeover. Additionally, Facebook is looking to make it easier for security researchers to report potential account takeover issues by not requiring attacks to be able to bypass Facebook's Linkshim, which is a technology that attempts to block phishing URLs.
"By increasing the award for account takeover vulnerabilities and decreasing the technical overhead necessary to be eligible for bug bounty, we hope to encourage an even larger number of high quality submissions from our existing and new white hat researchers to help us secure over 2 billion users," Facebook stated.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.