Hackers advertise private messages of 81,000 Facebook users for sale

REUTERS  Hannibal Hanschke

Once hackers obtained conversations, they proceeded to sell them online for 10 cents (8 British pence) per account - a small sum that multiplied by 81,000 could've been a lucrative haul for the hackers were they not shutdown by local police. It maintains that this particular data breach was not its fault, and urged browser-makers to exercise more caution.

Facebook told BBC in a statement that its security has not been compromised and the data was sent out to hackers likely by malicious browser extensions.

In the biggest-ever security breach after Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook in October admitted that hackers broke into almost 50 million users' accounts by stealing their "access tokens" or digital keys. "Malicious extensions can be used to intercept and manipulate the data passing through the browser", Holland said. The advertisement listed online said that full access to personal messages can be obtained at $0.10 per account, and it listed 81,000 of the profiles as samples for buyers.

Digital Shadows also confirmed that personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses from another 176,000 accounts was published, but that it may have been scraped because the accounts in question had not hidden it.

It is believed that numerous user details came from Russian Federation and Ukraine-based Facebook users although some messages also originated from people in the United States, the UK and Brazil, the BBC notes. Upon further investigation, BBC learned that the new data breach was not linked with the Cambridge Analytica scandal or the recent data breach in September. At least in one case, the data published included "intimate correspondence between two lovers", according to the report.

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Facebook became aware of the website hawking information from user accounts and started investigating about a month ago.

A reply in English came from someone calling themself John Smith.

He claimed that his hacking group could offer data from 120 million users, of whom 2.7 million were Russians.

He said that the information had nothing to do with either data leak.

The publication also cited Digital Shadows to claim that 120 million was an unlikely figure for the number of victims, as Facebook would not have missed such a large breach.

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