Facebook reveals new details about information hackers stole

Hackers accessed data of 29 million Facebook users

Hackers accessed data of 29 million Facebook users

The social media giant, which has more than two billion users worldwide, announced last month that engineers had discovered a "security issue" which affected 50 million accounts.

Hackers stole neither personal messages nor financial data and did not use their access to accounts users' accounts on other websites, the company said. The attackers then used the list of friends they collected to "eventually steal access tokens for about 30 million people".

Facebook cut the number of affected users from its original estimate after investigators reviewed activity on accounts that may have been affected.

"We now know that fewer people were impacted than we originally thought", Facebook vice president of product management Guy Rosen said in a conference call updating the investigation.

Still, for users already uneasy about the privacy and security of their Facebook accounts after a year of tumult, the details that hackers did gain access to - gender, relationship status, hometown and other info - might be even more unsettling.

Access tokens work sort of like a digital set of keys and are what allow you to stay logged in with the Facebook app rather than entering your password every time you want to access the site.

The social network apologized for the incident in a statement, explained the measures it was taking to protect possibly affected users and said law enforcement authorities had been alerted. Besides warning them of their data being leaked, Facebook will inform affected users about the exact information sets the malevolent third parties accessed, in addition to providing them with suggestions on how they can do a better job at protecting their online privacy.

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The 29 million affected users, along with 1 million whose security tokens were taken but did not appear to have their data stolen, will be receiving customized messages from Facebook identifying specifically which types of information on their profiles, if any, were involved in the breach.

So far, Facebook said it hasn't seen the information appear anywhere else online, but the company continues to investigate the incident with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "The stolen data is likely to be used by the hackers, so this problem is likely to persist for quite some time".

The European Commission tweeted: "Today's update from Facebook is significant now that it is confirmed that the data of millions of users was taken by the perpetrators of the attack".

The hackers used an automated program to move from account to account and harvest the data quickly.

The hack impacted 50 million accounts on the service. The data was as specific as the last 15 people or things they had searched for on Facebook and the last 10 physical locations they had "checked into".

All Facebook users compromised during the ordeal will be notified of the happening in the coming days, Facebook promised. The company said the actual content of the messages was not revealed unless "a person in this group was a Page admin whose Page had received a message from someone on Facebook, the content of that message was available to the attackers".

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