Facebook Removes Exposed User Records Stored on Amazon’s Servers

06 April, 2019, 08:23 | Author: Frank Williams
  • Signage is displayed outside Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park Calif

Researchers at the cybersecurity firm UpGuard on Wednesday said it discovered the existence of two datasets together containing the personal data of hundreds of millions of Facebook users.

"Facebook's policies prohibit storing Facebook information in a public database", the company was quoted by Reuters as saying. The passwords are presumably for the "At the Pool" app rather than for the user's Facebook account, but would put users at risk who have reused the same password across accounts. The second was a separate database from a Facebook-integrated app named "At the Pool" which exposed data via an Amazon S3 bucket.

Facebook is grappling with another startling data leak with 540 million records found in plain sight on a public Amazon server. Last year, the company also revealed that attackers exploited a bug on the platform to expose the information of almost 50 million users. Facebook's representative claims that they have taken the databases offline after being notified and now they are investigating the incident to identify how and for what duration the data was available on Amazon's servers. As Cambridge Analytica scandal marks a year, Facebook has let another major security gaffe happen at its end, which has resulted in millions of private records of its users stay unprotected on Amazon's cloud servers.

Another app developer of an app called "At the Pool" also left passwords unsecured in an Amazon cloud storage service.

Nabil Hannan, Managing Principal (Financial Services) - Software Integrity Group, Synopsys, commented: "With increasingly stringent data protection laws going into effect across the globe, and the public's heightened sensitivity to privacy violations, protecting sensitive data needs to be a critical priority for all organizations".

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The most recent breach of Facebook data only underscores the reality of the business models of social media platforms - the users are not the customers, they are the product. Although Facebook has made efforts to reduce its third-party access to data, especially after Cambridge Analytica, argues UpGuard, these exposures show that "the data genie can not be put back in the bottle".

UpGuard, in its blog post also claims that Facebook can not mitigate the extent of the damage as it has spread far beyond its controls.

Facebook only started to investigate after a Bloomberg reporter reached out on UpGuard's findings. "We are committed to working with the developers on our platform to protect people's data".

In that case, the financial and reputational damage to Facebook might prompt them to ensure the companies they do business with are held to their own security standards. While Facebook themselves have not compromised this data, they have allowed it to be freely obtained by companies with lax security measures.

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