Facebook has launched a new feature that notifies users if their accounts have been targeted by government-sponsored hackers.
In a post published on the Facebook Security page—which advises more than 1B Facebook users about how to secure their accounts—Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos said users would be notified “if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state.”
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The notification will advise users to turn on a feature called Login Approvals, which sends them a new security code that must be inputted each time an account is accessed from a new device or browser.
Users will be notified by a pop-up message (“Please Secure Your Accounts Now”), and will be advised to activate Facebook’s two-step authentication process, called Login Approvals.
The additional warning was deemed necessary because government-sponsored attacks “tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others,” Stamos noted, urging the affected users to secure all their online accounts.
“We plan to use this warning only in situations where the evidence strongly supports our conclusion,” he added.
Social Media Security and Government History //
Facebook may be the first major social network to publicly launch an anti-government-hacking campaign (others like LinkedIn and Twitter have so far made no public initiative), but it is three years behind Google, who began notifying its users potentially at risk of a state-sponsored attacks in 2012.
In Facebook’s last transparency report from November 2014, the company revealed that government requests for Facebook user data in the first half of 2014 increased 24% from the second half of 2013. However, those are formal requests, so they do not include attempts by governments or government-sponsored agents to obtain users’ information without permission. It’s difficult to estimate how often those incidents occur, though the mere fact that Facebook is now warning users about such attempts suggests they are not uncommon.
In 2013, ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that intelligence agencies in the U.S. and U.K. were conducting widespread surveillance operations, including the allegation that the U.S. National Security Agency hacked directly into the servers of nine internet firms including Facebook.
North Korea was also accused of state-sponsored hacking after the December 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which resulted in the personal details of around 6,000 Sony employees being leaked online, as well as information about upcoming films and salaries of the company’s top executives. North Korea denied any involvement.
During his recent visit to the U.S., Chinese President Xi Jinping denied that Beijing engages in state-sponsored hacking.