Facebook says 50M user accounts affected by security breach

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, California Facebook says it recently discovered a security breach affecting nearly 50 million user accounts. (File photo / AP)
Updated 28 September 2018

Facebook says 50M user accounts affected by security breach

  • Facebook says it learned of the attack last week that allowed hackers to steal ‘access tokens, the equivalent of digital keys that enable them to access accounts
  • The breach is the latest privacy embarrassment for the leading social network

NEW YORK: Facebook reported a major security breach in which 50 million user accounts were accessed by unknown attackers.
In a blog post , the company says hackers exploited a bug that affected its “View As” feature, which lets people see what their profiles look like to someone else. That would let attackers steal “access tokens,” which are digital keys that Facebook uses to keep people logged in. Possession of those tokens would allow attackers to “seize control” of user accounts, Facebook said.
Specifically, from the “View As” feature, a bug somehow allowed a video uploader to appear for sending “happy birthday” messages, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of product management said. Another bug then created an access token that made Facebook think the hacker had legitimately signed in with the account being viewed.
“We haven’t yet been able to determine if there was specific targeting,” Rosen said in a call with reporters. “It does seem broad. And we don’t yet know who was behind these attacks and where they might be based.”
Facebook says it has taken steps to fix the security problem and alerted law enforcement.
To deal with the issue, Facebook reset some logins, so 90 million people have been logged out and will have to log in again. That includes anyone who has been subject to a “View As” lookup in the past year.
Facebook says it doesn’t know who is behind the attacks or where they’re based. In a call with reporters on Friday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company doesn’t know yet if any of the accounts that were hacked were misused.
Jake Williams, a security expert at Rendition Infosec, said the stolen access tokens would have likely allowed attackers to view private posts and probably to post status updates or shared posts as the compromised user, but wouldn’t affect passwords.
“The bigger concern (and something we don’t know yet) is whether third party applications were impacted,” Williams said in a text exchange. “Facebook offers a login service for third parties to allow users to log into their apps using Facebook. In other words, Facebook is providing the identity management for countless other sites and services. These access tokens that were stolen show when a user is logged into Facebook and that may be enough to access a user’s account on a third party site.”
The hack is the latest setback for Facebook during a year of tumult for the company.
News broke early this year that a data analytics firm that once worked for the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, had improperly gained access to personal data from millions of user profiles. Then a congressional investigation found that agents from Russia and other countries have been posting fake political ads since at least 2016. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared at a Congressional hearing over Facebook’s privacy policies in April.
Facebook has more than 2 billion users worldwide. The company said people do not need to change their Facebook passwords, but anyone having trouble logging on should visit the site’s help center . Those who want to log out can visit the “Security and Login” section of their settings, which lists the places that people are logged into Facebook. It offers a one-click option of logging out of all locations.
Ed Mierzwinski, the senior director of consumer advocacy group US PIRG, said the breach was “very troubling.”
“It’s yet another warning that Congress must not enact any national data security or data breach legislation that weakens current state privacy laws, preempts the rights of states to pass new laws that protect their consumers better, or denies their attorneys general rights to investigate violations of or enforce those laws,” he said in a statement.
Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said “the most important point is that we found out from them,” meaning Facebook, as opposed to a third party.
“As a user, I want Facebook to proactively protect my data and let me know when it’s compromised,” he said. “Shareholders should ultimately approve of Facebook’s handling of the issue.”


Apple works with White House to release ‘COVID-19’ app

Updated 27 March 2020

Apple works with White House to release ‘COVID-19’ app

  • The app will ask users questions about symptoms, location and risk factors and then provide the appropriate up-to-date guidance from the CDC
  • The app will also answer frequently asked questions about the coronavirus disease with official information from the CDC

WASHINGTON: Apple Inc. and the White House said on Friday that the iPhone maker worked with the Trump administration and federal agencies to release an app that will direct users to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The app, which will be available in the app store as “COVID-19,” will ask users questions about symptoms, location and risk factors and then provide the appropriate up-to-date guidance from the CDC, White House officials said.
The app will also answer frequently asked questions about the coronavirus disease with official information from the CDC.
Based in northern California, Apple’s headquarters have been under lockdown orders for more than a week. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook earlier this week said that the company had donated 10 million protective masks to US health care groups after using Apple’s supply chain team to locate and buy the masks.