Facebook says hackers accessed highly-detailed personal data of 15 million users

Figurines are seen in front of the Facebook logo in this illustration

Facebook Vice President Guy Rosen told reporters that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has asked the company to limit descriptions of the attackers due to an ongoing inquiry.

Facebook said today the number of users who had their Facebook authentication tokens stolen in a security breach that took place last month is actually 30 million, and not 50 million, as the company initially announced.

But for about half of those whose accounts were broken into-about 14 million people-the hackers accessed intimate information, such as the last 10 places that person checked into, their current city and their 15 most-recent searches, the company said Friday.

Facebook scaled its estimate of affected users down to 30 million in an update on Friday, but revealed that attackers had been able to access a wide array of personal details from millions of accounts.

In September, Facebook had apologized for a "security issue", after discovering that hackers used a vulnerability in the platform's code to steal other users" "access tokens' and log into their accounts. The attackers then used some of those 400,000 accounts to steal the access tokens from a total of 30 million users. And for 14 million more people, the hackers were able to get a lot more information, like username, gender, relationship status, religious, birthday, and a ton of other information including things you've searched for.

Facebook says third-party apps and Facebook apps like WhatsApp and Instagram were unaffected by the breach. "Access tokens are the equivalent of digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don't need to re-enter their password every time they use the app", according to Facebook.

The "view as" feature allows users to check their privacy settings by giving them a glimpse of what their profile looks like to others. The vulnerability enabled the attackers to get an access token for Tom's account as well, and the attack spread from there.

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It will also provide guidance on how to spot and deal with suspicious emails or texts.

Facebook said it was continuing to investigate whether the attackers took actions beyond stealing data, such as posting from accounts but had not found additional misuse.

The revelation is the latest black eye for Facebook as it tries to recover from the scandal that came to light earlier this year in which Cambridge Analytica funneled highly personal details of more than 80 million users to an organization supporting then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. On Thursday, Facebook disclosed that it had removed hundreds of accounts and pages used to spread disinformation in the United States.

While Facebook has cautioned that the attack was not as large as it had originally anticipated - it forced 90 million users to log out so the security of their profiles would reset - the details of what was stolen anxious security experts. It plans to send messages to people whose accounts were hacked.

The attack prompted Facebook to take the unprecedented step of logging out the 50 million users whose accounts were exposed and logged out another 40 million users as a precautionary measure.

"This doesn't sound very targeted at all", he said.

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