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Private Messages of 120 mn Facebook Users Hacked: Report

According to Digital Trends, the latest hack involves the use of browser extensions

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Facebook releases Messenger redesign on Android, iOS. Pixabay

Hackers have gained access to private messages of nearly 120 million Facebook accounts and already published such messages from 81,000 accounts for generating money, the BBC reported.

Several users whose details have been compromised were based in Ukraine and Russia but some were also from the UK, US, Brazil and elsewhere, thereport said on Friday.

“The hackers offered to sell access for 10 cents per account. However, their advert has since been taken offline,” it added.

The breach was first discovered in September and the messages were reportedly obtained through unnamed rogue browser extensions.

Facebook, however, said its systems were not breached as part of the hack.

“We have contacted browser-makers to ensure that known malicious extensions are no longer available to download in their stores,” Guy Rose, Vice President of Product Management at Facebook, was quoted as saying.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“We have also contacted law enforcement and have worked with local authorities to remove the website that displayed information from Facebook accounts.”

The BBC Russian Service contacted five Russian Facebook users whose private messages had been uploaded and confirmed the posts were theirs.

“One example included photographs of a recent holiday, another was a chat about a recent Depeche Mode (British rock band) concert and a third included complaints about a son-in-law,” the report said.

In the biggest-ever security breach after Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook in October admitted that hackers broke into nearly 50 million users’ accounts by stealing their “access tokens” or digital keys.

Rosen had said that Facebook fixed the vulnerability and reset the access tokens for a total of 90 million accounts — 50 million that had access tokens stolen and 40 million that were subject to a “View As” look-up in 2017.

Facebook
Facebook, social media. Pixabay

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC), which is Facebook’s lead privacy regulator in Europe, has opened a formal investigation into this data breach that could result in a fine of $1.63 billion.

Also Read- Microsoft is Leading Quantum Computer Race to Unlock Mysteries Around Us

According to Digital Trends, the latest hack involves the use of browser extensions.

“It is always best to check which source an extension is coming from, and which permissions it is being granted access to,” it said.

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Facebook, Google Performing an Assault on the Right to Privacy

In a statement given to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said the company is working to give people more control over their data

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The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

Facebook and Google which offer services to billions of people without asking them to pay a financial fee are performing an assault on the right to privacy on an unprecedented scale, a stinging Amnesty International report said on Thursday, stressing that both companies need to change their business models which are threatening basic human rights.

The abuse of privacy that is core to Facebook and Google’s surveillance-based business model is starkly demonstrated by the companies’ long history of privacy scandals.

“Despite the companies’ assurances over their commitment to privacy, it is difficult not to see these numerous privacy infringements as part of the normal functioning of their business, rather than aberrations,” said the report that came out on Thursday.

Google and Facebook’s total revenues come almost entirely from advertising, at 84 percent and 98 percent respectively.

Their information is so attractive to advertisers that the two companies are often described as having a “duopoly” over the market in online advertising.

“But it isn’t ‘just ads’: the information in their data vaults – as well as the computational insights that Google and Facebook derive from that data,  is of intense interest to a host of actors, from companies who set insurance rates to law enforcement agencies,” said the NGO.

While Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion fine to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over privacy violations in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the European Union’s antitrust regulators have fined Google 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for abusing its dominance in the online search market by blocking rivals.

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Huawei smartphones are seen in front of the displayed Google Play logo in this illustration picture, May 20, 2019. VOA

In fresh trouble for Google, 50 US Attorneys General probing its anti-trust market practices have decided to expand the investigation into the tech giant’s Android and Search businesses.

According to the Amnesty report, the surveillance-based business model of Google and Facebook has thrived from a largely hands-off approach to the regulation of the technology industry in key countries such as the US, the companies’ home state.

“But despite the real value of the services they provide, Google and Facebook’s platforms come at a systemic cost. The companies’ surveillance-based business model forces people to make a Faustian bargain, whereby they are only able to enjoy their human rights online by submitting to a system predicated on human rights abuse,” the report noted.

This isn’t the internet people signed up for. Citizens today are paying for the Facebook and Google services with their intimate personal data.

After collecting this data, Google and Facebook use it to analyze people, aggregate them into groups, and to make predictions about their interests, characteristics, and ultimately behavior – primarily so they can use these insights to generate advertising revenue.

“This surveillance machinery reaches well beyond the Google search bar or the Facebook platform itself. People are tracked across the web, through the apps on their phones, and in the physical world as well, as they go about their day-to-day affairs,” said the Amnesty report.

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An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

In another example of infringing on users’ privacy, Google’s partnership with US healthcare organization Ascension over health data collection of millions of Americans through its “Project Nightingale” has also triggered a federal probe.

According to the NGO report, the companies’ use of algorithmic systems to create and infer detailed profiles on people interferes with “our ability to shape our own identities within a private sphere”.

“Advertisers were the original beneficiaries of these insights, but once created, the companies’ data vaults served as an irresistible temptation for governments as well.”

Ultimately, said the report, it is now evident that the era of self-regulation in the tech sector is coming to an end and further state-based regulation will be necessary.

Also Read: The Reasons of Investing in Luxury Watches

In its reply, Facebook disagreed with it’s business model being “surveillance-based.”

“It is important to note that no one is obliged to sign up for Facebook. Facebook’s business model is not, as your summary suggests, driven by the collection of data about people. Like many other online companies, Facebook is supported through the sale of advertising,” the social networking platform said in a letter which is part of the Amnesty report.

In a statement given to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said the company is working to give people more control over their data. (IANS)