Researcher finds way to steal money from Instagram, Google, and Microsoft

Researcher finds way to steal money from Instagram, Google, and MicrosoftBelgian security researcher Arne Swinnen found an inventive way to steal money from companies like Facebook (through the Instagram service), Google, and Microsoft, using their 2FA voice-based token distribution systems.

Most companies that deploy 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) send short codes via SMS to their users. Optionally, if the user chooses to, they can also receive a voice call from the company, during which a robot operator speaks the code out loud.

These phone calls are usually placed to the phone number officially tied to those specific accounts.

Он предлагает обратиться к платным телефонным сервисам. Обычно такие приемы используются для выманивания денег у пользователей, здесь же под удар ставится компания.

Swinnen discovered in his experiments that he could create Instagram, Google,and Microsoft Office 365 accounts that he could then tie to a premium phone number instead of a regular one.

When one of these three would call the account's phone number to communicate the user their access code, the premium SMS number would register an incoming call and bill the companies.

Swinnen argues that attackers could create premium phone services and fake Instagram, Google or Microsoft accounts, linking them together.

Using automated scripts, Swinnen says that an attacker could request 2FA tokens for all accounts, and by doing so, placing legitimate phone calls to his service, earning him quite a nice profit.

Researcher finds way to steal money from Instagram, Google, and Microsoft

According to Swinnen's calculations, he could theoretically obtain €2,066,000 per year from Instagram, €432,000 per year from Google, and €669,000 per premium number from Microsoft.

The technical and exploitation details are different per each service, and Swinnen explained them on his blog.


The researcher reported the possible attack to all three services, via their bug bounty programs. Facebook rewarded the researcher with $2,000, Microsoft with $500, and Google with a mention in the company's Hall of Fame.

Arne Swinnen is the same researcher who found an account takeover bug for Facebook and later helped Instagram fix its login mechanism against various innovative brute-force attacks.

Source: Softpedia

Tags: security

Add comment

Your name:
Sign in with:
Your comment:

Enter code:

E-mail (not required)
E-mail will not be disclosed to the third party

Last news

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1180 will be Turing-based with a 12nm FinFET die shrink
This only works on posts made by profiles that are public
The device will be standalone and based on a Qualcomm chipset
Apple plans on offering a cheaper smart speaker that will be priced at $199
Chrome will adopt a new approach to indicating site security
Data shows they are leading smartphone sale worldwide
Is this an error or it is really happening?
The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Review
The evolution of the successful smartphone, now with a waterproof body and USB Type-C
February 7, 2017 /
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S - a tablet with the Windows-keyboard
The first Windows-tablet with the 12-inch display Super AMOLED
June 7, 2016 /
Keyboards for iOS
Ten iOS keyboards review
July 18, 2015 /
Samsung E1200 Mobile Phone Review
A cheap phone with a good screen
March 8, 2015 / 4
Creative Sound Blaster Z sound card review
Good sound for those who are not satisfied with the onboard solution
September 25, 2014 / 2
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Smartwatch at High Price
The first smartwatch from Samsung - almost a smartphone with a small body
December 19, 2013 /

News Archive



Do you use microSD card with your phone?
or leave your own version in comments (10)