The advent of the age of social media has been a harbinger of change in our lives. At the same time, several problems have arisen due to this, and the most critical one is a data breach. A data breach can provide access to numerous sensitive data of people, which can be exploited to fulfil malicious motives.
Facebook faced a major data breach scandal in 2019 in which personal data consisting of user IDs, phone numbers and names of 49 million Instagram users, and 419 million Facebook users were exposed online. It has faced data breach multiple times and measures have been taken to fix it, but we still don’t have a full-proof trustworthy interface.
To fix this issue, Facebook also announced “Secure the Internet” grant program to fund research aimed at plugging these leaks. The focus areas were abuse detection and reporting, user safety, privacy-preserving technologies, post password authentication, anti-phishing and security for users in emerging markets.
Alan Mislove, an associate professor of Computer and Information Science at the Northeastern University was the recipient of one such grant. He founded how a feature on Facebook’s advertising platform can be used as a tool by information hackers to obtain phone numbers, which is the key to a multitude of personal data. It takes just 20 minutes to figure out a person’s phone number from the email address. Through phone porting, hackers can potentially use the information to take over one’s phone account which can cause blunders. In this way, the phone number becomes the weakest link in the victim’s security. The introduction of a new feature of “custom audiences” to Facebook’s advertising system is the major cause of this leak.
It’s the case not only with Facebook; various other social media platforms also face data breaches. As Facebook is the most mature one, it gets highlighted. So, conscious efforts at the level of an individual to share data only after multiple checks can only reduce this problem.