The discovery of a bug on a popular social networking site has won a 21-year-old engineering graduate a reward of Rs. 8 lakh.

The malfunction reportedly enabled users on Facebook to remove pictures from other accounts without the knowledge or approval of the owner.

For his discovery, city youth Arul Kumar was awarded with Rs. 8,12,500 as part of Facebook’s bug bounty programme through which it incentivises those who find flaws on the networking site.

The student, who hails from Salem, graduated from Hindustan Institute of Technology in Coimbatore in June and is now in Chennai on the lookout for a job.

“I have always been interested in the security of frequently-used websites such as Google and Facebook. There has to be a bug somewhere, and I keep testing every feature of these sites,” said Arul.

It was during one such testing exercise that he wondered if photos uploaded on Facebook by a user could be removed by others. Users are aware of two ways to remove a picture from the site — either the account owner removes it or somebody else who has a problem with it uses the dashboard to request the Facebook team to remove it, said Arul.

“But Facebook also has an option that asks the user who uploaded the picture to remove it. When I tested the feature, it turned out the request to remove the picture was sent to the person who wanted it removed, and not to the one who uploaded it — that was the bug,” he said. 

It took a night for Arul to verify the error, after which he sent a detailed report to Facebook. “But they rejected my claim saying they could not detect the bug. It was only when I sent them a video of the malfunction that they believed such a bug existed.”

Recently, Arul got a response from Facebook saying that his video was helpful, and that a payment of $12,500 would be awarded to him for finding the bug.

“This happened a week ago, but I waited till the bug was fixed so users would not be affected. Facebook does not pay those who hack into existing accounts,” he said.

Arul plans to hand the prize money to his family in Attur, Salem district, where his father runs a small shop.

“My father got me a laptop this January. I look forward to helping him in managing the family’s expenses. I hope at least one of the many companies I have applied to for a job responds to my application,” he said.