Two huge databases containing the records of over 300 million Facebook users, including their user IDs, phone numbers and names, have been leaked online.
The breach was detected by security researcher Bob Diachenko, who found the first exposed database last December.
He believes that the large collection of Facebook user data was collected by cybercriminals in Vietnam either through an illegal scraping operation or by abusing the social network's API based on the evidence he uncovered.
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In situations such as this, Diachenko usually notifies database owners first but since this data likely belonged to a criminal organization, he notified the internet service provider managing the IP address of the exposed server instead. Unfortunately, the leaked data was also posted on a hacker forum where others can download it and use it to launch phishing and other cyberattacks online.
Now, a second server containing the same data along with an additional 42m records has also been discovered, apparently operated by the same group of cybercriminals. However, shortly after the second server was found, it was attacked by an unknown party and the information it stored was replaced with dummy data and database names which read “please_secure_your_servers”.
The first exposed database contained 267m records and most of the affected users were from the US. Each record contained a unique Facebook ID, a phone number, a full name and a timestamp.
The second exposed server contained the same 267m records plus an additional 42m records and was hosted on a US Elasticsearch server. 25M of the records it contained had similar information as that contained in the first server but 16.8m of the new records contained additional information including users' profile details, email addresses and other personal details.
While it is still unclear at this time whether the data was obtained through the Facebook API or through a process called scraping where automated bots copy data from websites, Comparitech (who partnered with Diachenko on this discovery) does have some recommendations on how you can avoid having your data scraped.
To minimize the chances of having your profile scraped by strangers, the firm recommends that users go to their Facebook settings, click on “Privacy” and set all relevant fields from “Friends” to “Only Me”. Additionally, users should set the “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile” option to “No” to reduce the chances of having their profiles scraped by third parties.
- Also check out our complete list of the best VPN services
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After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.