Facebook Alerts Users Targeted by State-Sponsored Hacking

With 1.49 billion monthly active users, Facebook undoubtedly harbors more than a few people whose politics, comments or activities annoy nation-states somewhere on Earth. So the company has announced that it will alert users whenever it has reason to believe their accounts have been targeted by government-led cyberattacks.

While Facebook already had a policy of notifying users whose accounts appeared to be compromised, it decided to make a special effort to flag attacks that could be government sponsored, Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos noted Friday in a post on the Facebook Security site.

"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," Stamos said.

Whenever an account appears to have been targeted by a government actor, Facebook will send users a message suggesting that they turn on a feature called Login Approvals. Essentially two-factor authentication, the feature works by sending security codes to users' phones whenever people try to access their accounts from new devices or browsers.

Warnings Sent Only When Evidence Warrants

"It's important to understand that this warning is not related to any compromise of Facebook's platform or systems, and that having an account compromised in this manner may indicate that your computer or mobile device has been infected with malware," Stamos noted. "Ideally, people who see this message should take care to rebuild or replace these systems if possible."

To protect the integrity of its methods and processes, Facebook won't explain how it determines that any particular attack is likely to be nation-state sponsored, Stamos said. However, the company will send such warnings to users "only in situations where the evidence strongly supports our conclusion," he added.

Facebook has published a series of...

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