The bad news just keeps rolling in for Facebook and its users. Earlier this month, the social media giant announced 29 million accounts had been accessed by hackers, meaning personal information has yet again fallen into the wrong hands.
Facebook has since confirmed that those behind the hack were likely scammers posing as a digital marketing firm, looking to make money through deceptive advertising. The company’s VP of Product Management, Guy Rosen, announced the hackers scraped names and contact details (like phone numbers and emails), as well as additional information listed on some people’s profile pages (including gender, username, relationship status, hometown, etc.), according to CNBC.
This is the biggest security breach in the company’s history, and it’s important to know if and how your account has been compromised. While that might seem daunting, it’s actually pretty simple.
For starters, you should log into your account and pay a visit to Facebook’s Help Center. There you’ll find the latest information and updates on the hack. Below the updates, you’ll see a section labeled, “Is my Facebook account impacted by this security issue?”
If your account wasn’t one of the 29 million impacted, you’ll see a message stating:
“Based on what we’ve learned so far, your Facebook account has not been impacted by this security incident. If we find more Facebook accounts were impacted, we will reset their access tokens and notify those accounts.”
If your account was hacked, you’ll see a message from Facebook telling you what specific personal information was stolen. The mobile version reads something similar to this:
“We have more information about the security incident we discovered on September 25, 2018. An unauthorized party accessed your name, email address and phone number, and other information such as your date of birth and recent locations you’ve checked in to or been tagged in…”
Facebook insists it has secured the compromised accounts and assures users it is working with law enforcement to track down those responsible. But this is just the latest in a stream of security breaches that has plagued the embattled social network over the past few years, and more hacks are likely to come.
In a recent article, New York Times reporter Farhad Manjoo highlights the added risks of using Facebook to log into other apps and sites online.
“Like a trusty superintendent in a Brooklyn walk-up, Facebook offered to carry keys for every lock online,” Manjoo wrote. “The arrangement was convenient – the super was always right there, at the push of a button… Facebook had a financial and reputational incentive to hire the best security people to protect your keys; tons of small sites online don’t – and if they got hacked and if you reused your passwords elsewhere, you were hosed.”
While the real extent of this particular hack is yet to be seen, there’s a chance those behind it were able to access the accounts you’ve linked to Facebook – like Airbnb, Pinterest, Instagram and more than 100,000 others, Manjoo warns. That’s why you might want to think twice before using Facebook to access these other accounts.
“If the entity with which you trusted your keys loses your keys, you take your keys elsewhere. And there are many more-secure and just-as-convenient ways to sign on to things online,” he wrote.
Finally, CNBC offers the following tips to protect your privacy on Facebook and online in general.
Beware of “fun” quizzes and apps: Oftentimes these are the means by which scammers and hackers snag your personal information. “Remember: Nothing is free. If you’re inputting data about yourself, especially in a random third-party app, you’re giving it away.”
Change your privacy settings: Head to the “Settings” section on the top-right corner of your Facebook profile, then select “Privacy.” This is how you control who sees your posts, contact information and other personal information. If you change the settings so only you can see this kind of data, you are protecting yourself from potential data mining.
Be aware of your “friends”: Remember that your friends’ privacy settings can impact your own privacy. Posts you’re tagged in can be shared and viewed by almost anyone. “Consider pressing your friends to increase their security settings, too, and only befriending people you know and trust.”
Consider avoiding third-party apps altogether: Remember, installing these apps and using Facebook to log into them makes your personal information available. “You can manage what an app has access to by going to Settings and selecting “Apps” on the left side of the screen. You’ll usually need to share your personal information just to use the app, but you can deselect the option to share your friends list, email address and more.”
Turn on extra security settings: Did you know you can receive alerts when Facebook sees a login from a device or browser you’ve never used before? You can also turn on tow-factor authentication so that you’ll have to enter a unique code (sent to your phone) each time you want to log in. To access these extra settings, go to Facebook’s Settings page, select “Security and Login” from the left side and scroll down to the “Setting Up Extra Security” section.
Consider leaving Facebook: The only surefire way to protect your personal information from hackers on Facebook is to remove yourself from the network altogether. Here’s a guide to deactivating your account;