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