Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Ukrainian hackers used quizzes to access private Facebook data, Facebook says

Ukrainian hackers used quizzes to access private Facebook data, Facebook says

As a result, the hackers had access to the profiles and friends lists. According to Daily Beast reports last Friday, the popular social media giant accused the hackers of violating the federal and California anti-hacking laws with their shameless act.

The move has some wondering how a privacy-driven social media company can be profitable, given that Facebook earns profits from advertising dollars and has the second-largest hold on the digital ad market behind Google.

On how these men could access user's accounts, the complaint stated that they trickily caused the victims to install browser extensions infected with malware.

"In total, defendants compromised approximately 63,000 browsers used by Facebook users and caused over $75,000 [R1,050,000] in damages to Facebook", the company said in court documents. Cybersecurity experts have shrugged off that number, claiming only 63,000 browser installs were recorded.

"As a result of installing the malicious extensions, the app users effectively compromised their own browsers because... the malicious extensions were created to scrape information and inject unauthorized advertisements when the app users visited Facebook or other social networking sites", Facebook wrote. This amount according to the civil complaint was what Facebook spent in removing the malicious plugins from its website past year. However, Facebook refused to give an immediate response as to whether Gleb Sulchevsky and Andrey Gorbachov were the culprits then.

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"Defendants used the compromised app users as a proxy to access Facebook computers without authorisation", Facebook said.

The scheme seemingly wouldn't have worked, however, if Facebook hadn't approved the hackers as developers who could use its Facebook Login feature.

But crucially, that makes it quite different from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved Facebook voluntarily giving up too much data to developers, rather than needing to be hoodwinked by a browser plug in.

News of the lawsuit follows CEO Mark Zuckerberg's blog post last Wednesday announcing that Facebook will pivot toward privacy and unify its messaging apps across Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. In both cases, the defendants are overseas and seem unlikely to suffer serious consequences.

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