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Personal data of 500 million Facebook users exposed

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
MARCH 25th 2021: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google (Alphabet Inc.) CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testify before the United States Congress on combating online misinformation and disinformation. - File Photo by: zz/STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 12/10/20 Images of corporate logos photographed off an iphone 6s. While the economy has been significantly impacted during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, some companies - such as Facebook, a social media networking service - have prospered.
Image: Getty.

The personal data of 533 million Facebook users has been found online for free, with information including phone numbers, locations, birth dates and email addresses exposed.

The data appears to be several years old, but could be used to commit fraud and impersonate people, according to security experts.

The data leak affects users from 106 counties, with more than 32 million US users, 11 million in the UK and 6 million in India, Business Insider first reported.

There are 7 million Australian users affected, according to a list released by Alon Gal, chief technology officer at cybercrime intelligence company Hudson Crime, who discovered the leak.

Facebook said the vulnerability that allowed hackers to scrape the data was fixed in 2019.

"This is old data that was previously reported on in 2019," Facebook said in a statement. "We found and fixed this issue in August 2019."

It comes as Facebook continues to struggle with its data security problem. Facebook in 2018 was forced to disable a feature allowing users to search for others via phone number after it was found that data firm Cambridge Analytica had used it to find information on 87 million users without their consent.

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Gal said databases of that size can be used by “bad actors” to perform social engineering, or attempt to hack users.

The dataset is now on a hacking forum which can be accessed by anyone with basic data skills.

“I can sense people are fed up with their private information being mismanaged, you are absolutely right to feel so,” Gal said on Twitter.

“Facebook needs to acknowledge this breach and not with just a "we value your information" statement.”

He said that while Facebook can’t do much to recover the leaked data, it can tell users to be on guard against potential fraud or hacking attempts.

Image: Yahoo Finance
Image: Yahoo Finance