As much as I love this one friend of mine, nothing is private when we’re together. You probably have a friend like this. The relationship is really great so you stay friends despite all, but this particular friend simply cannot know something about you without sharing it with others no matter how hard you try to get them to understand it’s totally uncool.
Facebook Is an Open Book
They did it again this week with news that 419 million records, including phone numbers and user IDs, were scraped from Facebook and stored in a database that was just sitting online accessible to anyone who might like to peruse it. More than 130 million of those compromised by the discovery were American users. Another 18 million were UK users. A whopping 50 million hailed from Vietnam.
Facebook later claimed about half that number were affected, or 220 million records.
The information is at least a year old, which was when Facebook stopped allowing developers to have user phone numbers. So, we can call this a Facebook privacy facepalm legacy attack. It’s a sad state of Facebook privacy news fatigue that the urge is so strong to create privacy fail sub-categories—but there you have it. Introducing the legacy fail.
Why It Matters
Some of the information out there was granular enough to allow a variety of scams, but the most serious is SIM-card swapping scams, where a criminal, armed with enough information about you, and most crucially your phone number, arranges to have your number moved to a phone in the criminal’s possession.
Once the number has been transferred, the criminal has control of any accounts that are identified by caller ID (including many financial institutions) as well as any accounts protected by two-factor authentication. It is believed this was the method used to recently hack Jack Dempsey’s Twitter account.
What You Can Do
Assume that you are a target, and tighten your protections. Your phone provider will have tips on the best practices to avoid SIM-card attacks, and common sense can be your guide regarding any unexpected phone calls, and practice the Three Ms:
Minimize your exposure. Don’t authenticate yourself to anyone unless you are in control of the interaction, don’t over-share on social media, be a good steward of your passwords, safeguard any documents that can be used to hijack your identity, and freeze your credit.
Monitor your accounts. Check your credit report religiously, keep track of your credit score, review major accounts daily if possible. (You can check two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.) If you prefer a more laid back approach, see No. 5 above.
Manage the damage. Make sure you get on top of any incursion into your identity quickly and/or enroll in a program where professionals help you navigate and resolve identity compromises–oftentimes available for free, or at minimal cost, through insurance companies, financial services institutions and employers.