Facebook Reveals Shocking Details of Data Breach that affected 29 million users
It’s been a rough year for Facebook. The company has faced one scandal after the other, but probably the most serious one so far was last month’s massive data breach where hackers gained access to millions of accounts, stealing sensitive information including the users’ search history, addresses and relationship status.
29 Million People Affected
Initially the social networking giant said that the attack had targeted an estimate of 50 million profiles, but last Friday, after assessing the damage more thoroughly, it announced that less than 29 million Facebook accounts had been affected.
The cyber attackers used a hacking program that automatically moved from one friend to another, gaining access to millions of accounts in a matter of hours. In Friday’s statement, Facebook said that it had overestimated the number of profiles that were affected initially. The breach was limited to 29 million accounts, which have all been identified by the company. It will be sending automated messages to affected users over the next few days to give a detailed account of what type of information has been stolen from them.
Facebook users are becoming increasingly uneasy with the growing number of phishing attacks on the platform which have made them vulnerable to information theft. The social network has also gone down in popularity ever since the Cambridge Analytica data breach called the company’s security and privacy practices into question.
Cybersecurity experts say that Facebook will need to take better precautionary measures to prevent these attacks in the future and gain users’ trust back so that they are more at ease with posting and sharing information on the platform.
According to Facebook’s report, the hackers stole information like employment and education history, location check-ins, religious preferences and search history from over 14 million users. The remaining 15 million were affected by a less serious data breach where only names and location details were stolen. Even investors are losing faith in the company’s ability to safeguard the data. Facebook shares were on a continuous downward trend for six days before rebounding by 0.25 per cent on Friday.
Facebook hired a team of investigators immediately after the incident to assess the scale of the damage. After a thorough review of the hacker activity on the accounts, it was determined that the number of users affected by the attack was a lot smaller than the company had initially estimated.
Armor Inc.’s senior researcher, Corey Milligan says that it doesn’t matter how many people were affected by the attack. At the end of the day, what really matters is that all the information is out there in the hands of malicious actors who could use it in targeted scams against the users.
Regaining Users’ Trust
Facebook has been requested to keep all information about the attackers’ private due to an ongoing investigation by the FBI, according to Facebook VP, Guy Rosen. In his statement, Rosen said that the investigation is yet to reveal the intent of the attackers, although, he is sure that the upcoming midterm elections were not the motivation behind the breach.
When asked about the affected users, he said that attack wasn’t limited to the United States, although he refused to reveal any further details about it. Facebook assured that the attackers didn’t take any action beyond stealing information. Users’ personal messages and financial data were completely untouched and there was no sign of additional misuse such as posting from a user’s account without authorization.
Guy assured the public that Facebook was doing everything it can to regain users’ trust. He explained that the attackers exploited a loophole in Facebook’s security which allowed them use the ‘view as’ feature to gain access into the accounts of a handful of users. The scammers then used a hacking tool to access the friends of the people they has information on, and then on their friends and so on until they amassed data on over 29 million users.
The issue was later fixed and Facebook asked users to log back into their accounts after the initial breach disclosure.
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