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Facebook quells fears over code leak snafu

More of interest to lawyers than hackers

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Server configuration errors led to a leak of a portion the code used by social networking site Facebook over the weekend.

The glitch was quickly fixed but not before samples of the code were posted on a new blog, Facebook Secrets, for world+dog to see (the site remains live at time of writing). The leak involved scripts used on Facebook's user interface. Facebook moved to quell possible speculation that its site had been hacked or that the code deliberately leaked by a disgruntled hacker. It blames a "misconfigured web server".

"A small fraction of the code that displays Facebook web pages was exposed to a small number of users due to a single misconfigured web server that was fixed immediately. It was not a security breach and did not compromise user data in any way," it said.

"Because the code that was released only powers the Facebook user interface, it offers no useful insight into the inner workings of Facebook. The reprinting of this code violates several laws and we ask that people not distribute it further."

The code could be of interest to hackers in revealing how the site works. While hardly handing over the keys of the kingdom it might provide clues in the hunt for bugs that have more serious consequences. It also provides encouragement for miscreants seeking to harvest user data by suggesting security policies at Facebook aren't exactly airtight.

Wired reckons a configuration error meant that one of the Apache servers behind the site meant that a string of PHP code was served up rather than processed, a promising theory that is yet to be confirmed.

The leak comes at time when the founders of rival social networking site ConnectU are suing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly stealing their code and business plans when they were all students at Harvard. We can expect ConnectU to examine the leaked code for any similarities with its own. ®

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