At Facebook, zero-day exploits, backdoor code bring war games drill to life | Ars Technica

Of course in many places in the UK you could touch-off a security incident merely by walking into a building while wearing a hoodie:

Early on Halloween morning, members of Facebook’s Computer Emergency Response Team received an urgent e-mail from an FBI special agent who regularly briefs them on security matters. The e-mail contained a Facebook link to a PHP script that appeared to give anyone who knew its location unfettered access to the site’s front-end system. It also referenced a suspicious IP address that suggested criminal hackers in Beijing were involved.

“Sorry for the early e-mail but I am at the airport about to fly home,” the e-mail started. It was 7:01am. “Based on what I know of the group it could be ugly. Not sure if you can see it anywhere or if it’s even yours.”

Facebook employees immediately dug into the mysterious code. What they found only heightened suspicions that something was terribly wrong. Facebook procedures require all code posted to the site to be handled by two members of its development team, and yet this script somehow evaded those measures. At 10:45am, the incident received a classification known as “unbreak now,” the Facebook equivalent of the US military’s emergency DEFCON 1 rating. At 11:04am, after identifying the account used to publish the code, the team learned the engineer the account belonged to knew nothing about the script. One minute later, they issued a takedown to remove the code from their servers.


This is only a test

The FBI e-mail, zero-day exploit, and backdoor code, it turns out, were part of an elaborate drill Facebook executives devised to test the company’s defenses and incident responders. The goal: to create a realistic security disaster to see how well employees fared at unraveling and repelling it. While the attack was simulated, it contained as many real elements as possible.

The engineer’s computer was compromised using a real zero-day exploit targeting an undisclosed piece of software. (Facebook promptly reported it to the developer.) It allowed a “red team” composed of current and former Facebook employees to access the company’s code production environment. (The affected software developer was notified before the drill was disclosed to the rest of the Facebook employees). The PHP code on the Facebook site contained a real backdoor. (It was neutralized by adding comment characters in front of the operative functions.) Facebook even recruited one of its former developers to work on the team to maximize what could be done with the access. The FBI e-mail came at the request of Facebook employees in an attempt to see how quickly and effectively various employee teams could work together to discover and solve the problems.

via At Facebook, zero-day exploits, backdoor code bring war games drill to life | Ars Technica.

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