The personally identifiable information of more than half a billion Facebook users was leaked online on Saturday, made available for free on a hacking forum on Saturday. The violation, first spotted Hudson Rock Cybercrime Intelligence Firm includes full names, Facebook IDs, phone numbers, locations, dates of birth, biographies, and email addresses. User information from over 533 billion accounts was included in the leak and has been confirmed by Business intern as being genuine.
The enormous amount of information appears to have been the result of a security breach that allowed user information, including phone numbers, to be pulled from Facebook’s vast database of personally identifiable information. The original violation that would be responsible for the buildup of this leak was first reported in September 2019. Facebook claims to have fixed the security flaw identified and corrected in August of the same year. This is old data that was previously reported in 2019, a Facebook spokesperson told Bloomberg. This suggests that users who joined Facebook after August 2019 are unlikely to see their data exposed in this leak.
While the data posted on the Hacking Forum is not new, it is still important. Earlier this year, Motherboard reported that a cybercriminal forum was using the same collection of data to sell access to phone numbers linked to a people’s Facebook account. The user even set up an automated system where potential buyers could communicate with a robot on the Telegram messaging app, entering a person’s name and receiving their phone number.
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At the time, Alon Gal, co-founder and CTO of Hudson Rock, says Motherboard that the database was very disturbing and warned that it seriously harms our privacy and will definitely be used for smishing and other fraudulent activity by bad actors. Now that data no longer has the slight obstacle of a paywall to access; it is available to everyone for free. All it takes to access it is knowing where it is hosted and some low-level database browsing skills. Sure Twitter, Gal warned that bad actors will certainly use the information for social engineering, scam, hacking and marketing purposes.
Facebook is in a difficult position with this breach because it is not new and therefore there is little the company can do to combat it. However, this is a reminder of how much data the company has collected on its users and how negligent it has at times been in protecting that information. Facebook cannot prevent this data from being transmitted and used for harmful reasons at this stage. Information such as phone numbers, email addresses, and dates of birth are also almost always valuable to malicious actors, regardless of their age, as it rarely or never changes. This gives this breach a value when it is almost two years old.
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