Facebook breach hits 50m users, WhatsApp remains unaffected

Approximately 50 million Facebook user accounts were hacked last week as attackers exploited the "View As" feature, which allows people to see what their profile looks like to someone else. Hackers stole Facebook access tokens through this which can be used to "take over" people's accounts.

Claimed to be the worst breach for the social media giant, Guy Rosen, vice president of product management said in a Facebook blog post that it has reset the access tokens of the breached accounts in a bid to protect user security. Facebook is also working towards resetting access tokens of another 40 million accounts that have been subject to a “View As” look-up in the last year. It has also temporarily switched off the “View As” feature as it conducts a security review.

An estimated 90 million people will have to log back in to Facebook, or any of their apps that use Facebook login, and users will receive a notification at the top of their News Feed explaining what happened.

Rosen also added that Facebook has yet to identify the hacker's location or details of targeted victims. It also added that it been unable to determine whether the accounts were misused and/or if the private information was stolen. However, another concern would be towards the users' Instagram accounts.

While Facebook did not confirm if the Instagram accounts were compromised in line with the breach, Rosen said in a press call that if affected users have their Facebook accounts linked to an Instagram account, users will have to "unlink and relink" both accounts. In addition, he added that there was no impact on any WhatsApp users.

Closer to home, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said it is in touch with Facebook to ascertain how many users in the country are affected by the recent incident. It advised users to check their Facebook security and login page to determine if their account has been improperly accessed. MCMC also encouraged users to report any suspicious activities on their accounts.

According to a report by eMarketer in August 2018, Facebook has approximately 11.5 million users aged 12 to 17 years old on its platform while Snapchat takes the lead with 16.4 million, beating out Instagram at 12.8 million. Snapchat first surpassed Facebook in 2016 as the most popular social network among US teens and this year’s figure of 11.5 million teen users on the platform is a decline from last year’s figure (12.1m).

“Snapchat and Instagram are the top social apps for teens, and this year they’ll add nearly the same number of new teen users,” eMarketer senior forecasting analyst Christopher Bendtsen said. Although the stories format is generally a growth driver on social media platform, Facebook has been unable to retain its younger users.

However, the tables were turned in the eMarketer report focusing on Millennial user trends. It highlighted that Facebook holds the top spot with a user base of 58.5 million for social media platforms that Millennials surf on regularly. Instagram comes in second with 43.3 million Millennials preferring its platform.