By RUSSELL SKORINA
Currently treading in the unsteady wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook, once again, released a statement with dire news. On Sept. 28, the company announced that the personal information of at least 50 million Facebook accounts had been compromised, the largest hack in the history of Facebook. The hackers behind the breach used a flaw in the “View As” function to bypass Facebook’s security. Once aware of the breach, Facebook took immediate action. Facebook promptly informed users and logged the hackers out of affected accounts.
While this recent incident and the Cambridge Analytica scandal both center around compromised user information, it is important to note that these are separate events. The impetus behind this breach had nothing to do with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which was directed by a scholar with access to Facebook’s user data who gave account details to nefarious third parties. This breach was conducted by external hackers who exploited a hole in Facebook’s security. It’s the difference between a student swiping a shady stranger into a dorm and the same stranger climbing through a second-story window.
This is yet another reminder that nothing is safe online, ever. Even if a website seems safe, there is always a chance that your account will be hacked. The best way to prevent information from being stolen is to have nothing to steal. Try to minimize the number of locations with important data. Don’t send essential details like passwords or credit card information over the internet, or, if you have to, make sure to delete the information as soon as possible. Ask yourself, ‘what could someone find out about me if they hacked into my account?’ If you’re uncomfortable with the answer, try to delete all sensitive information. This advice is often repeated to the point of being trite, but it’s useful to remember.
This most recent hack does have a silver lining. Facebook informed its users of the breach almost immediately and, consequently, suffered the public backlash. This isn’t always the action taken by companies. Other companies, like Equifax, try to solve hacks behind the scenes. It can be months after the break-in happens that word gets out to the public. By being prompt, Facebook helped users keep their data safe despite hurting their public image at a key moment. Facebook chose to rip the band-aid, a decision that demands some respect.
If we want one takeaway from this story, it’s this: Facebook may be a bloated social media titan exploiting user data and leaking private information like it’s going out of style, but at least now they know enough to tell their users when something goes wrong. That may not seem like much, but in the age of opaque profit-first companies, it’s got to count for something.