Facebook reportedly concludes spammers, not nation-state, behind breach

Darnell Taylor
October 20, 2018

The social network us Facebook think that mass piracy of data recently revealed, was orchestrated by "spammers" and not by a country for political purposes, says the "Wall Street Journal" on Tuesday.

While the researchers behind this WSJ report have not identified the individuals behind this latest data breach, they have noted that the people who orchestrated the attack exist within the Facebook and Instagram ecosystem posing as a digital marketing company.

If that is true, it would mean that unlike many previous mega-breaches - including a massive 2013 data breach at Yahoo - this Facebook breach was not intended as an espionage information-gathering exercise, but rather had a purely financial impetus.

Quelling concerns that a foreign state could potentially be muscling in amid the USA midterm elections, internal investigators stated that the hackers were after financial rather than political gain.

On Friday, Facebook provided more details about the attack that it first disclosed two weeks ago - and said the Federal Bureau of Investigation had asked it not to discuss who might be behind the attack.

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Users can check whether they were affected, and what information was accessed, by visiting Facebook's help center.

Indeed, on Friday, Facebook revised its estimate of the number of breach victims downward.

At the hack, the attackers received the so-called access tokens of 30 million users due to the security flaw of the Facebook software.

Data harvested by the hackers included "username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or Pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches", according to a company blog post.

Spammers, not nation-state hackers, may have been behind the hack at Facebook last month that stole access to 30 million accounts. By gaining access to accounts, advertisers can manipulate the way their ads are seen - who by, how often etc and the yield from this manipulative analytics can prove phenomenal.

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