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.”


Snapchat evolving the use of the camera from entertainment to utility

Updated 03 August 2020

Snapchat evolving the use of the camera from entertainment to utility

  • Hussein Freijeh: Our audience in the GCC market specifically understood the core product value of Snapchat and they use Snapchat as a camera
  • Hussein Freijeh: They communicate visually through pictures and videos and they understood the format that Snapchat created for a mobile-only world

DUBAI: At the core of every modern mobile phone is a camera and one self-declared “camera company” has placed its focus on the Snapchat community in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

As far as Snap is concerned, the camera is king. “Our audience in the GCC market specifically understood the core product value of Snapchat and they use Snapchat as a camera,” said Hussein Freijeh, general manager of Snap in MENA.

“They communicate visually through pictures and videos and they understood the format that Snapchat created for a mobile-only world.”

There are currently 34 million monthly unique users on Snapchat in MENA with the platform reaching 60 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds in the UAE and 90 percent of the same age bracket in Saudi Arabia – more than Instagram.

In fact, the company said that Snapchat had a higher open rate than Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, throughout Ramadan 2019 in Saudi Arabia.

“When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic came, the need for people to communicate increased massively. As a result, we’ve seen a massive increase in our engagement because this is what Snapchat is all about,” added Freijeh.

As more people have spent time on the platform, Snapchat has evolved its offering beyond just entertainment and communication, to utility.

Freijeh noted that Snapchat already had an extremely engaged community and the next step was to work with developers and partners and bring them within the ecosystem to innovate further.

An example of this was the announcement of Minis at the Snap Partner Summit 2020, which are third-party apps that are integrated into Snapchat. Meditation app, Headspace, is one such example allowing users to meditate from within Snapchat.

“One of the things that makes us extremely excited about how we’re evolving as a platform is that idea of adding utility to entertainment on Snapchat. When I pull out my camera and point it toward a mathematic formula, and the camera solves it for me … automatically Snapchat and the camera of Snapchat moves from entertainment to the utility component,” the GM said.

Minis announced at the summit are being launched in the region based on local relevance and demand but Snap is already in active conversations with potential partners to “make sure that we find those cases where the utility would make sense to the local audiences and find the best partners that we can work with on those areas.”

Another topic of conversation at the summit was Originals, shows created specifically for Snapchat by publishers and broadcasters. Currently there are no regionally produced Originals but there are Shows.

Freijeh said that Snapchat expanded its content offering on Discover, which started with a list of news and media organizations such as Sky News and Al Arabiya, to creating Shows for the platform.

During Ramadan, the company announced 40 new Shows with top publishers across the MENA region. Freijeh said that Shows included content that sat on Snapchat but could be published on multiple platforms, whereas Originals were more exclusive to Snapchat and created for a specific purpose and genre.

The platform also works with streaming services such as OSN to promote its services and content on Snapchat. Depending on the partner’s objective, Freijeh said, for instance, that if a service wanted to publish its content on Snapchat and if Snap believed that the content was engaging and the community would appreciate it, it would publish it.

“So far, our value to those services, specifically OSN, has been around driving audiences to them and being able to drive subscription,” he added.

In April 2020, OSN ran a campaign on Snapchat to increase awareness and drive new subscriptions for OSN Streaming through a series of ads.

The campaign targeted a huge diversity of demographics in both English and Arabic within the GCC as well as Jordan and Lebanon and included the launch of a dedicated Snapchat Lens to bring to life the season premiere of “Killing Eve.”

The Lens reached more than 2.2 million unique Snapchatters throughout the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Over the course of the campaign, Snapchat delivered 34 percent of the total purchases and one-fifth of all sign-ups.

Despite the overall dampening of the advertising industry due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Freijeh remained optimistic.

“One of the advantages of the pandemic, unfortunately, is the shift toward e-commerce and online purchases and behaviors. There’s a consensus in the market that one of the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 is going to be that aggressive and accelerated shift toward e-commerce behaviors across all sectors, and as a platform we’re very focused on that,” he said.

The hospitality, travel, and luxury sectors – big spenders on Snapchat – were naturally hit the most. “We’ve seen a lot of activity and ambition coming from major CPG (consumer packaged goods) players, retail, and e-commerce. We’ve built a very diverse business in the last four years at Snap and that has allowed us to be a little bit more resilient through this pandemic.”

By way of example he pointed out Dubai Tourism’s “Till We Meet Again” campaign, which included the launch of four Snapchat Lenses to transport users in the UK and France to Dubai to experience famous destinations including the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Frame, Al-Seef, and Madinat Jumeirah.

During the two weeks that the campaign ran, more than 9.2 million people in the UK and France used the Lenses to virtually visit local landmarks and users exceeded time-spent expectations by more than 180 percent.

According to a post-campaign brand study that ran in May to examine users’ desire to consider Dubai as a travel destination once travel became possible, 30 percent of Snapchatters in the UK and France were positive about visiting Dubai once COVID-19 restrictions were eased.

Snap is confident about its position and role in the face of competition and crises.

“We have a strong business in MENA; our position is really strong here and the way we diversified the business, gave us strength to make sure that we weather the impact of the pandemic for now,” Freijeh said.