Facebook honours Manipuri youth for spotting WhatsApp bug


Facebook has honoured a 22-year-old engineer from Manipur for detecting a bug on the instant messaging platform WhatsApp.

The social networking giant awarded Zonel Sougaijam $5000 (roughly about Rs. 3.4 lakh) for the discovery and also included him in the “Facebook Hall of Fame 2019” that has so far included 96 people for “making a responsible disclosure” to Facebook.

Sougaijam discovered that during a voice call on the instant messaging platform, the bug allowed the receiver to upgrade it to a video call without the knowledge of the individual making the voice call.

The bug therefore allowed people to infringe on the privacy of users. Sougaijam’s discovery helped Facebook fix a big security lapse.

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“During a WhatsApp video call, say the other person turns his or her camera off for some reason and the video call gets paused, you can resume it without the other person even touching his or her smartphone,” Sougaijam wrote in a blog post.

“I came to know it was a serious bug and I reported it right away to Facebook through Facebook’s bug bounty programme where you can report bugs which pose security threats to Facebook related products.

“After few days of chatting about the bug, I also made a short video in which I explained to them how the bug is behaving. They told me that the bug was confirmed and they are working for a fix,” Sougaijam, who is a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech.) in Civil Engineering, added.

And about two weeks later, Facebook informed Sougaijam that the bug has been fixed.

“So, I checked myself and the bug had been fixed,” he added.

“The bounty amount is decided by the degree of severeness of the bug, the quality of the report and many other factors. The minimum amount that a person can get, if his or her bug is identified as a security threat, is $500 which is roughly Rs 34,000,” Sougaijam informed.

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Sougaijam is, however, not the only Indian who has made it to the Facebook Hall of Fame 2019.

Rony K Roy and K.S. Ananthakrishna from Kerala are some of the other young Indians who have made it to the list.

Ananthakrishna detected the bug that enabled other people to completely remove files on WhatsApp without the knowledge of the user.