Facebook Data Breach – What Happened And Why It’s Hard To Know If Your Data Was Leaked

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Paul Haskell-Dowland has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment, and does not work for, consult, own shares in, or obtain support from any corporation or organization that would benefit from this article.


The Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa are among the eight universities that have contributed to the Conversation. The University of the Witwatersrand and the University of the Western Cape and the African Population and Health Research Centre, and the Nigerian Academy of Science are hosting the conference. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a Strategic Partner of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

An alleged data breach affecting half a billion Facebook users from 106 countries was recorded over the long weekend.

Although this number is impressive, there’s more to the story than 533 million data sets. This hack demonstrates how many of the tools we use aren’t built to protect our data from cybercriminals adequately.

It’s also not always easy to determine whether or not your personal information has been compromised in a data breach.

What happened?

On an underground database used by cybercriminals, over 500 million Facebook users’ personal information was released online.

It was apparent right away that this wasn’t a new data breach, but rather an old one that had come back to haunt Facebook and the millions of users whose information was now for sale online.

The data breach is thought to be linked to a flaw that Facebook patched in August of this year. Although the exact source of the data cannot be confirmed, it was most likely obtained by abusing legitimate Facebook features.

As was the case with the PayID attack in 2019, such misuses can occur when a seemingly harmless website is used for an unexpected reason by attackers.

Criminals can mine Facebook’s systems for users’ personal information using techniques that automate the data harvesting process, as in Facebook.

This can ring a bell. Facebook was also reeling from the Cambridge Analytica fiasco in 2018. This was also not a hacking incident but rather a misuse of a perfectly legitimate Facebook feature.

Although the information was initially accessed legally, according to Facebook’s rules, it was then passed on to a third party without the users’ consent.

Were you targeted?

There’s no easy way to tell if your personal information was compromised in the latest data breach. If the website in question is behaving in your best interests, you should at the very least be notified. However, this isn’t a given.

Even the most tech-savvy user will be limited to searching underground websites for the leaked data.

The data being sold on the internet contains a lot of essential details.

Most of the records contain names and sex, with many also containing dates of birth, place, relationship status, and employer, according to haveibeenpwned.com.

According to reports, just a tiny percentage of the stolen data had a valid email address (about 2.5 million records).

This is important since a user’s data is less valuable without the associated email address. The combination of a person’s date of birth, name, phone number, and email address is an excellent place to start when it comes to identity theft and exploitation.

Consider how you check your identity on the phone with your bank or how you last reset a password on a website if you’re unsure why this information will help a suspect.

Troy Hunt, the founder of Haveibeenpwned.com and a web security specialist, believes the data could be used to improve phishing and SMS-based spam attacks.

How to protect yourself

Given the severity of the data breach, there was very little that Facebook users could have done to defend themselves. Since the attack was directed at Facebook’s servers, the company is solely responsible for data security.

Although you can choose to leave the site personally, many people find it challenging to do so. However, it would help if you made some adjustments to your social media habits to reduce your risk of data breaches.

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1. Ask yourself if you need to share all your information with Facebook

To use Facebook, we must give up some information, such as mobile phone numbers for new accounts (as a security measure, ironically). However, there is a piece of information you can withhold to maintain some control over your results.

2. Think about what you share

Aside from the confirmed leak, there is a slew of other ways to harvest Facebook user data. You can avoid sharing birthday party images on an actual day if you use a fake birth date on your account. And seemingly innocuous photographs can expose personal details.

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3. Avoid using Facebook to sign in to other websites.

While the “sign-in with Facebook” feature can save you time (by reducing the number of accounts you need to manage), it also increases the risk of being hacked — mainly if the site you’re signing into isn’t one you trust. If your Facebook account is hacked, the intruder can automatically access all of your related websites.

4. Use unique passwords

Even if it’s inconvenient, use a different password for each online account. This can be aided by using a password manager (and this is how I have more than 400 different passwords). If your password for a site is compromised, it will only function for that site. It will not prevent your data from ever being stolen.

You can still download a copy of all the data Facebook has on you if you want to be scared. If you’re thinking of quitting the platform and want a backup of your data before you do, this is a good option.


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