As if the recent Facebook hack of 50 million user accounts that was discovered on 25th September wasn’t bad enough, it became apparent that it could also affect “Facebook Login” service, which allows other apps to use people’s Facebook account to login.
On Tuesday 25 September, Facebook engineers discovered that hackers had used a vulnerability in Facebook’s “View As” feature (which lets people see how their profiles appear to others) to steal digital keys known as “access tokens” from any accounts of people whose profiles were searched for using the “View As” feature. This meant that hackers were able to move from one Facebook friend to another, taking control of all those accounts along the way. It is estimated that the staggering number of 50 million user accounts were compromised in this way.
It has been reported that Facebook had noted a spike in the number of people using the “View As” feature in relations to Facebook’s video uploading feature for posting “happy birthday” messages (a known, year-old vulnerability), but didn’t put two and two together at that point. Even though the hack was reported to have been discovered by Facebook on Thursday 25th September, It is now thought that the hack actually took place on 16th September.
Even though less than 10% of the 50 million Facebook accounts affected by the security breach were in the European Union, this is still a significant number, and required a report within 72 hours of discovery of the breach to comply with GDPR. It has been reported, however, that Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) has said that Facebook’s initial notification to the regulator about the breach (on Thursday) didn’t have enough detail, and this could lead to an official investigation and possibly some (substantial) fines. Facebook’s discovery of the breach on the Tuesday, and notification to Ireland DPC on the Thursday meant that, at least it kept within the 72-hour disclosure deadline required under GDPR.
Worse – Other Services Using Login By Facebook Could Be Affected
One of the things that has made the breach even worse than was previously thought is that, if you use Facebook to log into other services, such as Instagram (owned by Facebook), Tinder, Spotify and even Airbnb, the attackers could also use the stolen access tokens to gain the same level of access to any of these, and may have been able to steal all of your profile info, photos, private messages and more. The fact that the hackers have stolen tokens means that they don’t need to enter a username and password to access a site because the token is a signal that they’re already logged in.
Fixed, Says Facebook
Facebook has reported that it has now fixed the flaw by logging everyone out of their accounts and suspending the “view as” feature.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
This hack was on a massive scale, and was the biggest in Facebook’s history, coming not long after the revelations about Facebook’s sharing of its customer data with Cambridge Analytica for political purposes. This has undoubtedly dealt another blow to Facebook’s reputation but more importantly, it could lead to further problems for Facebook’s users. The fact that the hackers were able to steal tokens, thereby rendering strong passwords and multi-factor authentication useless (which is frightening in itself), means that the attackers could use any personal data and information that they may have harvested from Facebook and other Facebook login sites to target users in future cyber attacks. The information taken could, for example, be used in phishing attacks, fraud, and even blackmail. The information used for blackmail (photos, private messages, etc) could even cause damage to personal and work relationships.
Once again, it seems, we can’t trust a major tech company to adequately protect our personal data and information, even after it has gone to the trouble, over the last few months, of spending large amounts on advertising campaigns to tell us how much it can be trusted. Even though the initial crime appears to be a large-scale hack, the fact is that users could find themselves being the victim of cyber attacks in future because of the information that has been stolen.