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Facebook downgrades breach count from 50 million to 30 million users

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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.

Attackers stole authentication tokens for these 30 million accounts, but they also stole additional data for 29 million, Facebook said.

  • For 15 million users, attackers harvested name and contact details (phone number, email, or both, depending on what people had on their profiles).
  • For 14 million users, attackers harvested the same info as above, plus username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or Pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches.
  • For 1 million, attackers only collected access tokens.

The social network said it’s working with the FBI to identify the attackers, and could not reveal additional information about the source of the attacks.

But while answering questions in a phone conference today, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of Product Management, said Facebook did not identify attempts to use any of the stolen tokens.

Even if the attackers had tried to use the tokens, they wouldn’t have worked, Rosen said, the reason being that Facebook had invalidated all the stolen tokens on September 28.

Rosen also said Facebook did not find any evidence suggesting the tokens were used with the Facebook Login feature either, which would have allowed the attacker to log into third-party apps via Facebook tokens.

The Facebook exec also went into more details on how the attack unfolded. He said attackers initially used accounts under their direct control, which they had likely created, to exploit the vulnerability in the “View As” feature and steal tokens for the friends of those original accounts. They then used the same vulnerability over and over again until they gathered tokens for around 400,000 accounts, which Rosen referred to as “seed accounts.”

Once they had the tokens for the seed accounts, Rosen said the attackers used the tokens to access the 400,000 accounts and deployed scripts to harvest even more tokens at a larger and automated scale.

This action triggered a massive traffic spike, which Facebook engineers detected on September 16, and following investigations into the source of the traffic concluded it was a coordinated attack on September 26, patched the View As vulnerability on September 27, and went public with the breach on September 28.

“In the coming days, we’ll send customized messages to the 30 million people affected to explain what information the attackers might have accessed, as well as steps they can take to help protect themselves, including from suspicious emails, text messages, or calls,” Rosen added separately, in a blog post.

Mockups of those messages are available below. Until then, Facebook also launched a Help Center page where everyone can go and see if they’re one of the 30 million unlucky users who had their token stolen.


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The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security

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This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.

These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.

Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.

If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.

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Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.

Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.

In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.

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CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions

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Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.

Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.

“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”

As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.

Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.

“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.

So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:

“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”

Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.

“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”

Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast

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