Facebook Should Reword Confusing Hack Warning About “State-Sponsored Actors”

19 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook Now Tells You to Replace Your Computer When State-Sponsored Hackers Attack.

When we say “Facebook IS the Internet to many people” we really “Many Facebook users don’t fully understand what the Internet is.” Throwing Internet jargon at them will just make them freeze up and ignore you, or get deeply confused. Rest assured that the next time some state-sponsored hackers go after your personal information on Facebook, the social networking giant will give you a heads up.The site will be watching for extra-suspect activity on people’s accounts and informing them when it happens — encouraging them not just to change their password but to “rebuild or replace” their computer system because it has probably been entirely compromised. Facebook FB 0.53% posted a public message Friday evening informing users that they will be notified at any point in the future if the site believes their account “has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state.” Facebook said users whose accounts are suspected of being under attack will receive a notification informing them of the potential state-sponsored hack and offering them the option of turning on Login Approvals to block users on other devices from accessing their account. “While we have always taken steps to secure accounts that we believe to have been compromised, we decided to show this additional warning if we have a strong suspicion that an attack could be government-sponsored,” Facebook said in the post. “We do this because these types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts.” The new notification system is similar to one implemented by Google GOOG 0.31% for Gmail users three years ago.

Google also recently introduced Password Alert, which raises an alarm when users enter their Google account info on an untrusted site, in an effort to cut down on phishing scams. That message includes a code that must then be put back into Facebook, meaning that hackers need physical access to the phone to break into an account. But after five years writing about Facebook, seeing insane hoaxes passed around, and dealing with the most mind-boggling misconceptions about how it works, I’d bet big that this “warning” will confuse some people right when they need help most. “Hackers funded by national governments”, “criminals working with other countries to access or steal your private information”, “bad people”. The site said that it won’t often be able to explain how it has come to decide that certain attacks have come from state-sponsored hackers, to “protect the integrity of our methods and processes”. In June, it offered the option to share public encryption keys, to keep email notifications between the site and its users encrypted (though intra-network messages remain unencrypted).

A year ago, Facebook launched a “dark web” version of itself on Tor, an important extra layer of encryption and privacy for those trying to avoid surveillance. He added that anti-virus software probably wasn’t going to cut it when trying to get despotic malware off your computer: “Ideally, people who see this message should take care to rebuild or replace these systems if possible.” Hopefully you never see this message. That should probably just spell out that people should change their passwords, and turn on two-factor authentication if available and they know what that means. Even if its own secure databases were never hacked, and it did nothing wrong, it’s still putting its reputation on the line to warn people they may have endangered themselves or been targeted by an attack beyond the realm of Facebook.

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