Facebook says hackers 'scraped' data of 533 million users in 2019 leak

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testifies before the US Congress in April, 2018 about the harvesting of personal information by  Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testifies before the US Congress in April, 2018 about the harvesting of personal information by Cambridge Analytica.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Facebook said that hackers "scraped" personal data of some half a billion users back in 2019 by taking advantage of a feature designed to help people easily find friends using contact lists.
  • A trove of information about more than 530 million Facebook users was shared over the weekend at a hacker forum.
  • The data included phone numbers, birth dates, and email addresses, and some of the data appeared to be current, according to US media reports.


Facebook said Tuesday that hackers "scraped" personal data of some half a billion users back in 2019 by taking advantage of a feature designed to help people easily find friends using contact lists.

A trove of information about more than 530 million Facebook users was shared over the weekend at a hacker forum, prompting the leading social network to explain what happened and call on people to be vigilant about privacy settings.

"It is important to understand that malicious actors obtained this data not through hacking our systems but by scraping it from our platform prior to September 2019," Facebook product management director Mike Clark said in a post.

"This is another example of the ongoing, adversarial relationship technology companies have with fraudsters who intentionally break platform policies to scrape internet services."

The data included phone numbers, birth dates, and email addresses, and some of the data appeared to be current, according to US media reports.

The stolen data did not include passwords or financial data, according to Facebook.

Scraping is a tactic that involves using automated software to gather up information shared publicly online.

"All 533 000 000 Facebook records were just leaked for free," Alon Gal, chief technology officer at the Hudson Rock cybercrime intelligence firm, said Saturday on Twitter.

He denounced what he called the "absolute negligence" of Facebook.

"Bad actors will certainly use the information for social engineering, scamming, hacking and marketing," Gal said on Twitter.

Clark urged members of the social network to check their privacy settings to control what information can be seen publicly, and to tighten account security with two-factor authentication.

This is not the first time leaks or use of data from the world's largest social network - with nearly two billion users - has embroiled Facebook in controversy.

In 2016, a scandal around Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm that used the personal data of millions of Facebook users to target political ads, cast a shadow over the social network and its handling of private information.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
USD/ZAR
14.30
(-0.0)
GBP/ZAR
19.84
(+0.2)
EUR/ZAR
17.24
(+0.3)
AUD/ZAR
11.05
(+0.2)
JPY/ZAR
0.13
(+0.0)
Gold
1,785.10
(+0.1)
Silver
26.08
(-0.3)
Platinum
1,214.68
(+0.6)
Brent Crude
65.40
(+0.1)
Palladium
2,855.14
(+0.6)
All Share
67,042
(+0.1)
Top 40
61,269
(+0.1)
Financial 15
12,093
(-0.0)
Industrial 25
86,707
(-0.1)
Resource 10
68,938
(+0.5)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, and I've gotten it.
21% - 1303 votes
No, I did not.
52% - 3242 votes
My landlord refused
28% - 1743 votes
Vote