The headquarters of Facebook are located at 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park, California. It was supposed to be a nod to the company’s coding prowess at the time. In retrospect, the organization should have anticipated the ironies it was about to expose itself to.
Yes, just when you thought you’d forgotten about Cambridge Analytica, the personal data of 533 million Facebook users gleaned by “fraudsters” appeared on a hacking forum over the weekend, according to Business Insider.
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There were 32 million users from the United States, 11 million from the United Kingdom, and 6 million from India among the half-billion users. A total of 106 countries were impacted.
Facebook said in a blog post that the data was accessed through scraping, which is “a popular technique that often relies on automated software to lift public information from the internet that can end up being spread in online forums like this.”
“We suspect the information in question was scraped from people’s Facebook profiles prior to September 2019 by malicious actors using our contact importer,” Facebook said. “This feature was created to make it easy for people to communicate with their friends on our services by using their contact lists.
Scraping was the tool used by Cambridge Analytica to collect data from over 80 million Facebook users in breach of the platform’s terms of service, in case you forget. This information was then used to reach voters.
The presence of the information was first discovered in January on the same board by Alon Gal, chief technology officer for Hudson Rock, a cybercrime intelligence agency, when a user advertised a bot that could retrieve phone numbers for a fee.
Vice’s Motherboard confirmed the data on Jan. 25, reporting that it “checked the bot and confirmed it contained the real phone number of a Facebook user who tries to keep this number private.”
Facebook said at the time that the information came from accounts generated before 2019 and that the flaw had been fixed; newer accounts had no results.
On Saturday, the scrapers’ data trove was made publicly available on the hacking forum for free. Your phone number, full name, current location, previous locations, birthdate, email address, relationship status, and other details may be included.
“A database of that scale containing the private information of a large number of Facebook users, such as phone numbers, will almost certainly lead to bad actors exploiting the data to carry out social-engineering attacks [or] hacking attempts,” Gal told Business Insider.
Phone number, Facebook ID, Full name, Location, Past Location, Birthdate, (Sometimes) Email Address, Account Creation Date, Relationship Status, Bio.
Bad actors will certainly use the information for social engineering, scamming, hacking and marketing.
— Alon Gal (Under the Breach) (@UnderTheBreach) April 3, 2021