Financial Services

Facebook Data Taken- Breach

SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook says 30 million fewer accounts were breached than originally thought in one of the worst security incidents at the giant social network – 30 million instead of 50 million – but attackers made off with sensitive personal information from nearly half of those users that could put them at serious risk, including phone number and email address, recent searches on Facebook, location history and the types of devices people used to access the service.

Hackers got their hands on data from 30 million accounts as part of last month's attack, Facebook disclosed Friday. Facebook originally estimated that 50 million accounts could have been affected but the company didn't know if they had been compromised.

For about half of those whose accounts broken into – some 14 million people – the hackers looted extensive personal information such as the last 10 places that Facebook user checked into, their current city and their 15 most recent searches. For the other 15 million, hackers accessed name and contact details, according to Facebook. Attackers didn’t take any information from about 1 million people whose accounts were affected. Facebook says hackers did not gain access to financial information, such as credit-card numbers.

The company would not say what the motive of the attackers was but said it had no reason to believe the attack was related to the November midterm elections.

Facebook users can check if their data was stolen by visiting the company's Help Center. Facebook says it will advise affected users on how they can protect themselves from suspicious emails and other attempts to exploit the stolen data. Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of product management, said the company hasn't seen any evidence of attackers exploiting the stolen data or that it had been posted on the dark web.

Affected users should be on the lookout for unwanted phone calls, text messages or emails from people they don't know and attempts to use their email address and phone number to target spam or attempts to phish for other information. Facebook users should also be wary of messages or emails claiming to be from Facebook, the company said.

Third-party apps and Facebook apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp were not compromised, according to Facebook. Hackers were not able to access any private messages but messages received or exchanged by Facebook page administrators may have been exposed.

Security experts say the 14 million users who had extensive personal information swiped are now extremely vulnerable. Colin Bastable, CEO of Lucy Security, which focuses on cybersecurity prevention and awareness, painted an especially grim scenario.

"The truth is that, as a result of this news, millions of phishing attacks will now be launched, pretending to be from Facebook. Up to 20 percent of recipients will click and a large number of those will be successfully attacked, many of them using work computers and mobile devices," Bastable said. "Businesses and governments will lose money, ransomware attacks will result from this leak, and the attack will reverberate over many months."

The culprits behind the massive hack have not been publicly identified. The FBI is actively investigating the hack and asked Facebook not to disclose any information about potential perpetrators, Rosen said. When they disclosed the breach two weeks ago, Facebook officials said they didn't know who was behind the attacks.

The latest disclosure, another in a series of security lapses that have shaken public confidence in Facebook, may intensify political heat on the company. An investigation is underway by Ireland's Data Protection Commission, and Rosen said Facebook is also cooperating with the Federal Trade Commission and other authorities. The FTC declined to comment if it's investigating.

“Today's update from Facebook is significant now that it is confirmed that the personal data of millions of users was taken by the perpetrators of the attack," Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, the watchdog agency charged with privacy protection in the European Union, said in a tweet.

The extent of the personal information compromised by attackers delivered a blow to the public relations campaign Facebook has been waging to convince the more than 2 billion people who regularly use the service that it's serious about protecting their personal information after the accounts of 87 million users were accessed by political targeting firm Cambridge Analytica without their consent and Russian operatives spread propaganda during and after the 2016 presidential election.

This week, Google acknowledged that half a million accounts on its Google + social network could have been compromised by a software bug. The admission prompted lawmakers to call for an FTC investigation. Both incidents could further fuel a congressional push for a national privacy law to protect U.S. users of tech company services.

"These companies have a staggering amount of information about Americans. Breaches don't just violate our privacy, they create enormous risks for our economy and national security," Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Rohit Chopra told USA TODAY after Facebook disclosed the data breach last month. "The cost of inaction is growing, and we need answers."

More: Facebook breach puts your identity at risk. Here's what you can do to protect yourself

More: Largest Facebook hack ever turns up heat on Mark Zuckerberg

More: Facebook's 50 million account breach is already its biggest ever -- and may get even worse

More: Midterms: 'Furious' Democrats purchase blitz of Facebook ads on Kavanaugh, far outpacing GOP spending

After the accounts were compromised last month, more than 90 million users were forced to log out of their accounts as a security measure.

Facebook says attackers exploited a feature in its code that allowed them to commandeer users' accounts. Those accounts included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his second-in-command, Sheryl Sandberg.

The attack began Sept. 14. A spike in traffic triggered an internal investigation. More than a week later, on Sept. 25, Facebook identified the vulnerability and fixed it two days later.

The vulnerability was introduced in July 2017 when a feature was added that allows users to upload happy birthday videos.

Attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that affected "View As," a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. The feature was built to give users more control over their privacy. Three software bugs in Facebook's code connected to this feature allowed attackers to steal Facebook access tokens they could then use to take over people's accounts.

These access tokens are like digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don’t need to re-enter their password every time they use Facebook.

Here's how it worked: Once the attackers had access to a token for one account, call it Jane's, they could then use "View As" to see what another account, say Tom's, could see about Jane's account. The vulnerability enabled the attackers to get an access token for Tom's account as well, and the attack spread from there. Facebook said it has turned off the "View As" feature as a security precaution.

Last month, Facebook reset the tokens of nearly 50 million accounts that it believed were affected and, as a precaution, also reset the tokens for another 40 million accounts that had used "View As" in the past year. Resetting the tokens logged the affected Facebook users out of the service.

A breach of this kind is not a single, isolated event, warned Adrien Gendre, CEO of Vade Secure North America, an email security company. Hackers don't profit from breaking into Facebook accounts. Money's made, he noted, by launching spear phishing attacks using the data they've purloined, an increasingly common form of cyberattack where hackers spoof someone's identity to get them to complete a write transfer or share confidential information.

And that's very bad news for the 14 million Facebook users who had intimate personal information stolen.

Risk Facing Financial Services

Risk Facing Financial Services

Financial services institutions have changed significantly over the last decade – from utilizing technology in new ways to stay competitive and drive efficiencies, to adapting business practices in light of the global financial crisis and recent narrow interest margin markets.

As these businesses evolve, they’re faced with a new range of exposures that can result in significant and lasting commercial costs, and traditional exposures come to light in a different context. Crime has also changed for these businesses, with a growing number of attacks against financial institutions taking place online and through digital means.

To better understand this changing landscape, we’ve outlined the top risks facing financial institutions today:

 

Social engineering and funds transfer fraud

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Some of the most frequent cyber claims made by businesses in the past year involved funds transfer fraud and some form of social engineering. Funds transfer fraud is often carried about by criminals leveraging fraudulent emails or phone calls to request the transfer of funds from a legitimate account to their own. In some cases, fraudsters will pose as a senior executive appearing to give urgent instructions to a junior employee. While financial institutions have greater control processes, including separation of responsibilities, both banks and their clients are at risk of falling victim to these types of attacks, and as long as they continue to prove successful, we expect this threat to grow in both frequency and severity. Financial institutions should consider employee training on these newer forms of fraud, including how to identify phishing emails. Banks should also be concerned about their customers’ susceptibility to social engineering fraud, and should consider education campaigns where relevant.

 Adherence to post-crisis regulation

Following the mortgage crisis in 2007-2008 and the subsequent global financial crisis, the regulatory burden for banks has increased significantly. This brings additional costs when meeting these new requirements, along with higher potential penalties if an institution fails to comply. In many instances, resultant fines and penalties following regulatory failures are uninsured or uninsurable. Financial institutions should seek cover where regulatory enquiry costs and expenses are covered.

 Falling prey to predatory banking

Financial institutions have found themselves in a narrow interest margin environment, which means the pressure on banks to generate revenue from non-interest earnings is intense. In some cases, the desire to drive revenue through new or existing products has led to instances of selling inappropriate products to consumers, resulting in significant consumer claims. Institutions must ensure that their products are suitable and that they meet the needs of the consumer and the consumer’s expectations. It’s also important for institutions to ensure their remuneration policies do not inadvertently encourage the miss-selling of products. The fallout from consumer protection scandals can be costly not only from a legal and regulatory standpoint, but also in terms of damage to the brand.

 Reputational damage

Predatory banking is only one type of behavior that can bring reputational harm to financial institutions. Large institutions can suffer backlash for a variety of misdeeds made public, for instance the failure in anti-money laundering controls by Wells Fargo or HSBC, who were hammered in the media for their behavior. On a smaller scale, for regional and community-based institutions, the power of social media can mean that reputational damage spreads far faster than ever before.

 Systemic instability

Nearly a decade later, the effects of the global financial crisis are still being felt by financial institutions around the world. Recent concerns over Deutsche Bank’s operational cut backs and stock price decline have shown there is still uncertainty around the performance of even the biggest financial organizations. Additionally, recent instability in Europe – particularly in Italy and Spain, as well as the still incomplete negotiation – could have effect elsewhere, including the US, where European headquartered institutions such as Deutsche Bank, Barclays and HSBC are systemically significant institutions.

 Challenger banks and new technology

The traditional banking model is increasingly challenged by newcomers trying to use technology to replace existing processes and disrupt the status quo. In the UK and Europe, challenger banks are gaining steam and traction among younger generations and early adopters. In the US, there are few online-only challenger banks, but there is increasing competition from payment processors, online non-bank lenders and other providers who are edging their way towards areas conventionally controlled by banks. The risk for traditional institutions will not only be economic, but they will also need to provide more services to their clients to ensure they are competitive and relevant, and they may need to reassess their cyber exposure as they put more systems online.