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Big Data

Facebook Security Glitch Exposed Millions of Users' Data

Facebook Security Glitch Exposed Millions of Users
June 24, 2013 11:18AM

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Mike Gross, director of professional services and risk management at 41st Parameter, told us Facebook is facing the same potential risks LivingSocial experienced when hackers breached its database earlier in May that put its 50 million users at risk. In this case, Facebook fixed the user-data bug within 24 hours of its discovery.

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Facebook has disclosed a data breach has revealed six million user phone numbers and e-mail addresses over the past year. The company pointed to a technical glitch in its 1.1 billion user database as the root of the issue. Facebook fixed the bug within 24 hours of its discovery, but it may not have been soon enough to stop a ripple effect.

"We currently have no evidence that this bug has been exploited maliciously and we have not received complaints from users or seen anomalous behavior on the tool or site to suggest wrongdoing," Facebook said in a blog post.

"Although the practical impact of this bug is likely to be minimal since any email address or phone number that was shared was shared with people who already had some of that contact information anyway, or who had some connection to one another, it's still something we're upset and embarrassed by, and we'll work doubly hard to make sure nothing like this happens again."

Is Facebook Security Lagging?

We turned to Sean Bodmer, chief researcher at CounterTack, to get his thoughts on the latest social media security mishap. He told us the discovery of shadow profile leaks on Facebook was one story. Finding secret shadow files amongst the data -- that seem to be analyzed and correlated data points of every user ranging from their real-life details and private information input by members -- is another.

It's shocking, he said, but not surprising.

"If you look back over the past few years, Facebook publications and reports included a handful of articles about Facebook selling information to customers. Who is to say this isn't one of the data sources that has been sold to the target-marketing firms placing specific ads in view of members based on likes, interests and habits?" he asked.

"The monetization of this information isn't a shock and anyone, in my humble opinion, who thought this free service was completely free doesn't fully understand the basic back-door practices of big data firms finding clever ways of increasing their bottom-line by finding novel ways to massage their big data sets to turn a profit."

Not the First Time

Mike Gross, director of professional services and risk management at 41st Parameter, told us Facebook is facing the same potential risks LivingSocial experienced when hackers breached its database earlier in May that put its 50 million users at risk. It was a seemingly innocuous breach of low-risk data -- no card or payment information -- but it makes phishers' jobs much easier because they now potentially have access to an e-mail address, as well as the individual's closest connections.

"Rather than getting a phishing e-mail with a link from Facebook or another site, a fraudster could make the phishing e-mail look as though it is originating from your close friend with a link to looks legitimate but sends the user to a site that downloads malware on their device," Gross said. "This is actually a much more dangerous data breach than others where no contextual data is provided since having data on close connections allows the fraudster to easily target victims with e-mails that are more likely to get opened and links to be clicked."

His conclusion: Any breach is a big deal, but when relationships are disclosed it raises the stakes. Once malware is on millions of devices, the fraudster essentially has access to every potential online account, from banks to and beyond.

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