Yuval Shprintz is 17. He lives in Tzurit, which is a small moshav in the north of Israel. He likes computers, and even though he is still a senior in high school, he is already working towards his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Haifa University. When his classmates whittled away their days following soccer and playing video games, Shprintz became interested in information security, becoming somewhat of an expert.
Several months ago, for his amusement, he was toying with Whatsapp, the popular instant messaging platform owned by Facebook. “I was playing around with the functions, trying to do something cool,” he told the Israeli press. He wanted to write a bit of code that would allow him to combine several Whatsapp groups; instead, he stumbled on a major security breach that allowed anyone with a bit of coding knowledge to add additional users to each group, even users previously blocked by the group’s administrator, as well as fake, lengthy phone numbers designed to crash the application.
Using a bug bounty program, which enables users to report software malfunctions to developers, Shprintz alerted Facebook of the problem. Weeks went by. He heard nothing. Then, earlier this month, the social media giant sent the Israeli teenager its compliments alongside a check for $1,250.
“We’re grateful that this has been brought to our attention,” Facebook said in a statement. “We’ve quickly fixed the problem and rewarded the researcher.” The researcher, on his end, didn’t have to think twice before deciding how to spend his bounty.
“I bought a new and powerful computer,” he said. “The prize money came in handy.”