March 20, 2019

Beware: Browser Extensions You Download May Lead to Hacked Facebook Messages

04 November 2018, 07:23 | Cameron Gross

Getty Images

Getty Images

Facebook is back in the limelight with another alleged data breach, and this time users' personal messages shared on the platform are claimed to have been compromised.

Without naming the extensions, Facebook explains that these malicious extensions quietly monitored users' activity, and sent data back to the hackers, without the users' knowledge.

Hackers have gained access to private messages of almost 120 million Facebook accounts and already published such messages from 81,000 accounts for generating money, the BBC reported. The latter could simply have been gathered via a lack of privacy settings, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Analysis by Digital Shadows, a British cyber security firm, found 12,000 of the 257,000 users said they were based in Russian Federation; 47,000 said they were from the Ukraine. All of the messages breached were of a personal nature, from the tame subject of dicussing a music concert to the more explicit.

Facebook maintains that its services haven't suffered any security breach, but this data has been obtained via malicious extensions.

The breach first came to light in September, when a post from a user nicknamed FBSaler appeared on an English-language internet forum.

Talking to Wired, Facebook Executive Guy Rosen said, "We have contacted browser-makers to ensure that known malicious extensions are no longer available to download in their stories".

The social network is also working with local authorities to remove the website where the sample data was posted.

Digital Shadows also confirmed that data from a further 176,000 accounts was accessible although apparently some of that information, which included email addresses and phone numbers, could have been scraped from members that had not hidden it on their profile. "However, their advert has since been taken offline", the report added. In total, the hackers made off with the details of over 120 million accounts.

The BBC said there was reason to believe the 120 million claim was exaggerated.

Earlier this year, Facebook was embroiled in a scandal after it was revealed that a London-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed user information to build profiles on American voters that were later used to help elect US President Donald Trump in 2016.

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