The Bug that Messed Up Facebook’s Advertiser Receipts
Early this July, Facebook was hit with a systems bug that charged its advertisers with receipts from ads not their own. Facebook’s official statement stated that the glitch caused by the bug was minor, lasting only several hours. Ad delivery was not affected and the billing issue was quickly patched up. Yet according to one customer, an ad support hotline rep admitted that about 20,000 advertisers were affected.
Although the systems breach was not in confidential areas, the fact that the bug was able to get in spells either a dedicated enemy or some talented hacker had managed to go through Facebook’s security blocks and proved that the Facebook database is hackable. A pinhole can expand into an open door, or an enemy will not be satisfied with causing the company some inconvenience. Faithful advertisers pay the social media giant over $2.27 billion each quarter and further hints of vulnerability can affect its ad sales, causing enough damage to rock it on its heels. Is the bug a portent of attacks to come, or can advertisers rely on Facebook’s word that it’s on top of the problem and that its systems are safe?
The company has grown so fast and so big that there would be enough people out there who want to hold Facebook hostage for a fraction of its huge profits. To have the capability of putting a monkey wrench that stops its operations at will can force the company to pony up cash. Or will it? The security precincts involved is terra incognita to any but the most trusted insiders. Will their watchfulness or talents be enough to shield their employer from another bug? It will be a safe bet that the social site’s effort to lock up its systems will be massive and powerful.
The culprits will want people to ask questions and have doubts. Many others, including Facebook’s rivals, will watch further developments with interest. It’s acquisition of LiveRail means (for some quarters in high finance and government or among groups of talented Internet mavericks) that the social media site is coming into its own as a new corporate hegemony that needs to stumble to make it “step more carefully”. If nothing else, the problem is testimony to Facebook’s success. In our less than perfect world, there will be people jealous of that success – no matter that the company, compared to other companies its size, still maintains its aura of being a white knight in the field.