Facebook Faces a Data Breach
Recently, you may have seen some internet headliners about Facebook’s data breach. This is one of several huge company leaks that have been affecting users directly and indirectly (depending on how much of their information was accessed). We’re here to break down what’s been happening with these companies and also what you can do to ensure your digital safety.
What’s going on, Facebook?
Cambridge Analytica, a firm that collects data and worked with Donald Trump’s campaign and Brexit, created software to determine voting trends and, according to The Guardian, “used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.” As of April 5th, it is estimated that 87 million users have been affected by this. The information was obtained from an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” Facebook claimed that the use of this app was consensual to its users; however “thisisyourdigitallife” took personal data from a number of the app users’ friends’ profiles without consent. TechRadar states that thousands upon thousands of users engaged with “thisisyourdigitallife” on their own accord, but their information was being “used for political and financial gain without their knowledge or consent.”
Cambridge Analytica and Mark Zuckerberg are under investigation while Facebook continually promotes that their services are still user-friendly and safe. While The Guardian mentioned that Facebook took down “thisisyourdigitallife” in 2015 and the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica denied taking Facebook users’ data, Cambridge Analytica spent thousands of dollars on data collection recently and a quarter of voters’ profiles were breached into. Mark Zuckerberg has been heavily questioned during this process and is scheduled to testify this week. He and Facebook have alluded to implementing data collection reduction from outside sources, limiting the information given to just the user’s name, email, and profile picture.
Most recently, NPR posted an article stating that Facebook cut ties with another data system called Cubeyou. Affiliated with Cambridge University, this company strives to collect customer data "for non-profit academic research." Cambridge University denies connections to Cambridge Analytica and while no scandals have been affiliated with Cubeyou, it appears that Facebook is taking no chances amidst this controversy.
As of Tuesday, April 10, Facebook allows you to see if your account was breached by Cambridge Analytica. You can check by going to this link.
Even More Breaches
Unfortunately, Facebook is not alone in a massive company data breach, though these other examples are somewhat different in how data was breached and what was breached. According to American City Business Journals, 150 million accounts from MyFitnessPal were tapped into just last week. Apparently, an “unauthorized party” received information from these users’ accounts. There is little known about this case, but MyFitnessPal has urged its users to change their passwords immediately.
Delta also reported that customer credit cards were being under surveillance by 7.ai, a customer experience software company. CNN claimed that Delta has responded to this breach from last fall by ensuring their customers’ safety. They promised that if any fraud has been detected on a customer’s account, they have steps listed on their website to fix this problem quickly.
Panera, too, has had issues with information tied to the MyPanera rewards system. The Washington Post wrote that Panera estimated 10,000 accounts were breached while “KrebsonSecurity put the number at closer to 37 million, though experts say the true number of compromised records may never be fully known.”
How to stay safe
What’s scary about data breaches is that it’s often difficult to track how long information has been vulnerable to outside sources. Additionally, companies frequently don’t know how many people are affected by a breach because it’s hard to track. Here are some tips you can take in attempt to amp up the security of your own online accounts:
Change your passwords from time to time and vary them, i.e. don’t switch around the same two passwords every other month.
Nowadays, with everything online, it’s difficult to avoid putting too much information out there. However, it’s also important to take note of what you’re posting or putting out there. In other words, be cautious about what you’re sharing because it may be taken by another source. Remember, the internet is almost always a public commodity.
Don’t ignore anything that seems off or suspicious in your accounts or open anything suspicious.
Know what your companies policies are. For example, Facebook has been posting a lot of updates about the recent data breach. You can read about their “plans” for the data breach here and, likewise, other companies in similar situations usually post updates about data breaches on their websites.