Imagine being told you are too young to do something. We have all been there before at one time or another, whether it’s being told to go to bed or not being able to finish off the pint of ice cream. Jani, a 10-year-old from Finland is finally taking a stand.
But instead of staying up late or watching too much television, Jani recently hacked Instagram, one of the world’s most popular networks. Most interesting of all, Instagram paid him to do it. It’s all part of the network’s bug bounty program, in which they pay white hat hackers to find security vulnerabilities in their systems. 10-year-old Jani just took home the grand prize: $10,000.
Before Jani had even reached the age requirement to make a Facebook account, he found a major flaw that allowed him to hack Instagram’s security (Instagram is owned by Facebook). Once inside, he could get into Instagram’s servers and delete text posted by any Instagram user. He could delete or manipulate anyone’s captions and comments on any photos on the entire network.
How did Jani prove the flaw to Instagram? The Instagram security team set up a test account and allowed the white hacking genius to run amok. He demonstrated his level of access by deleting comments that were made on the test account. Jani said he could even delete Justin Bieber’s comments with the security flaw he found. He resisted the temptation.
Hacking Instagram is not the first time Jani has successfully shown his tech savvy capabilities. According to the boy’s father, Jani and his twin brother have found security flaws in websites before, but no flaw that had warranted a $10,000 payout.
Facebook’s (and therefore Instagram) bug bounty program is open to anyone to help find bugs and flaws and offers cash rewards to problems that are significant, which is very similar to Google’s own security rewards program. From the most recent Facebook release on the program, the company had received over 13,000 submissions from researchers in 2015 alone, with over 500 of them being valid.
Hacking Instagram is normally something not for children, but Jani is breaking the rules in the best way possible.