Facebook boss reveals changes in response to criticism

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has revealed a series of changes to the firm's portfolio of social platforms, including Instagram and Whatsapp.

The new designs and features for its apps are a direct response to widespread criticism of how the firm protects user data.

Mr Zuckerberg said the company plans to put privacy first.

He acknowledged that there was much to do to rebuild trust.

In a speech to developers, Mr Zuckerberg described the firm's new focus on privacy as "a major shift" in how the company is run.

Some of the more visible changes to those who use the firm's products will include:

  • Messages sent via Messenger will be end-to-end encrypted by default, meaning Facebook itself won't see the contents, and the platform will be fully integrated with WhatsApp
  • Instagram is trialling a "private like counts" feature which would hide the "likes" a post attracts from viewers, but not the account owner
  • There will be more "ephemeral" ways to share content in messages - meaning there will not be a permanent record of them
  • A WhatsApp secure payment service trialled in India is to be rolled out to other countries later this year.
  • The Facebook app is being redesigned to make community groups central to the newsfeed - and the distinctive blue branding is going. The redesign is rolling out in the US and then more widely straight away.
  • Instagram posts will no longer have to start with a photo or a video, it will be possible to share content using just text, stickers or drawings thanks to a new "create" camera mode.

"The future is private," Mr Zuckerberg said - adding, in a nod to the tech giant's stream of privacy scandals: "I know we don't have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly".

He said Facebook was focused on looking at ways to encode privacy across the firm's entire infrastructure.

"It's not going to happen overnight and to be clear we don't have all the answers," he said.

He has previously said that he believes that people will want to talk privately in small groups and communities in the future.

However he will have to convince the public that Facebook is the place to do this, some commentators noted.

Netwise 30.04.19

facebook hacker attack

Facebook: An Update on the Security Issue

You may remember that last month (September 2018) Facebook said 50 million user accounts were affected by a security breach which potentially enabled hackers to take over people's accounts.

On Friday, the company revised downwards its estimate to "about 30m" and revealed 15 million users had highly personal information stolen by hackers.

It included search history, location data and information about relationships, religion and more. In an Oct. 12 post cryptically and unhelpfully titled “An Update on the Security Issue,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of product management, wrote that they wanted

"to provide an update on our investigation. We have now determined that attackers used access tokens to gain unauthorized access to account information from approximately 30 million Facebook accounts. We're very sorry this happened. Your privacy is incredibly important to us, and we want to update you on what we've learned from our ongoing investigation, including which Facebook accounts are impacted, what information was accessed and what Facebook users can do about this."

and that for

“15 million people, attackers accessed two sets of information - name and contact details (phone number, email, or both, depending on what people had on their profiles), device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or Pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches."

That has the makings of an epic phishing expedition. It might even be enough to answer other, more personal forms of authentication, like the “only you know the answer” security questions banks often use. 

Facebook has said it will not provide identity fraud protection for the victims of its latest data breach but users can visit this link to find out if they have been directly affected.

How to check your account

If you are not logged into Facebook you will see this message


When you have logged in, hopefully you will see this one:


We have not (yet) seen the "you've been hacked" version of their message...

Netwise 16.10.18

facebook hacker attack

Facebook: 50 million accounts hit by security breach

Facebook has said 50 million user accounts were affected by a security breach which potentially enabled hackers to take over people's accounts.

The social media giant has not yet determined whether the accounts were misused or information was accessed.

Nor does it know who is behind the breach or where they are based. Facebook said the hack was discovered on Tuesday afternoon, and stemmed from a change it made to its video uploading feature in July 2017.

Something called "View As", which allows users to see what their profile looks like to someone else, subsequently became vulnerable.

About 90 million people will now have to log back in, after an additional 40 million accounts were reset as a precautionary measure.

While an investigation is still in its early stages, Mr Rosen said the company was "working hard to better understand" what had happened.


What is 'View As'?

Facebook's "View As" function is a privacy feature that allows people to see what their own profile looks to other users, making it clear what information is viewable to their friends, friends of friends, or the public.

Attackers found multiple bugs in this feature that "allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens, which they could then use to take over people's accounts", Mr Rosen explained.

"Access tokens are the equivalent of digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don't need to re-enter their password every time they use the app," he added.


Who has been affected?

The firm would not say where in the world the 50 million users are, but it has informed Irish data regulators, where Facebook's European subsidiary is based.

The company said the users prompted to log-in again did not have to change their passwords.

"Since we’ve only just started our investigation, we have yet to determine whether these accounts were misused or any information accessed. We also don’t know who’s behind these attacks or where they’re based. “

He added: "People’s privacy and security is incredibly important, and we’re sorry this happened."

The company has confirmed that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and its chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg were among the 50 million accounts affected.


What does this mean for Facebook?

The breach comes at a time when the firm is struggling to convince lawmakers in the US and beyond, that it is capable of protecting user data.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call on Friday that the firm took security seriously, in the face of what he said were constant attacks by bad actors.

But Jeff Pollard, vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester, said the fact Facebook held so much data meant it should be prepared for such attacks.

"Attackers go where the data is, and that has made Facebook an obvious target," he said. "The main concern here is that one feature of the platform allowed attackers to harvest the data of tens of millions of users.

"This indicates that Facebook needs to make limiting access to data a priority for users, APIs, and features."

Reaction to this news:

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre said in a statement: "Based on current information, we understand that Facebook have fixed the flaw by temporarily suspending the 'View As' feature.

"There is no evidence that people have to take action such as changing their passwords or deleting their profiles.

"However, users should be particularly vigilant to possible phishing attacks, as if data has been accessed it could be used to make scam messages more credible."

Chairman of the Commons' Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Damian Collins, tweeted:

"More serious questions for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook - this is why (my committee) will continue to press for him to give evidence to our parliament."

Labour's shadow secretary of the committee, Tom Watson, said Facebook "should have discovered this industrial scale data breach months ago".

He added: "It is very disappointing that it has only come to light now."

"We need to know where affected users are and exactly how the breach happened."

Mark Drew, Lead Co-ordinator of Arboleas Home Watch commented: "This could be serious if you have full details in your profile as the hackers could potentially use this personal information to masquerade as you."

"For the next few week be extra vigilant and check regularly on your accounts."

Netwise 29.09.18

Twitter warns direct messages were exposed

Twitter is in full damage control mode after disclosing that it may have inappropriately exposed some unlucky twits' private tweets and direct messages to strangers.

Twitter has told an undisclosed number of users their private messages may have been leaked to third-parties for more than a year.

The 280-character shoutfest admitted on Friday that a bug present in one of its APIs from May 2017 to September 10, 2018, could have caused some messages to leak to certain third-party programmers. The biz claimed less than one per cent of its users would be affected, but seeing as Twitter is used by roughly 335 million people a month, you do the math. (OK, perhaps as many as 3.4 million.)

The software “bug”, which has since been fixed, involved direct messages between users and businesses that offer customer services via Twitter. Affected users are being notified via a message that appeared when opening the app or logging on to Twitter's website. "The issue has persisted since May 2017," Twitter said.

The company said it had resolved the issue immediately upon discovering it, on 10 September.

The network has 335m monthly active users, according to the firm’s latest figures, published in July. Twitter said not all direct messages, which are supposed to be private, unlike normal tweets, were at risk, just those between users and companies - such as an airline.

"We haven't found an instance where data was sent to the incorrect party," the company said. "But we can't conclusively confirm it didn't happen, so we're telling potentially impacted people about the bug.

Netwise 22.09.18