Facebook leaked keys to account data: Symantec

May 11, 2011
US computer security firm Symantec has said that Facebook accidentally left a door open for advertisers to access profiles, pictures, chat and other private data at the social network.

US computer security firm Symantec has said that Facebook accidentally left a door open for advertisers to access profiles, pictures, chat and other private data at the social network.

Facebook told AFP that there was no evidence anyone stepped through that door and swiped any information from the accounts of its more than 500 million members.

discovered that certain applications leaked tokens that act essentially as "spare keys" for accessing profiles, reading messages, posting to walls or other actions.

Facebook applications are Web software programs that are integrated onto the leading online social network's platform. Symantec said that 20 million Facebook applications, such as games, are installed every day.

"We appreciate Symantec raising this issue and we worked with them to address it immediately," Facebook said in response to an AFP inquiry.

The tokens were being leaked to third-party applications including advertisers and analytics platforms, allowing them to post messages or mine personal information from profiles, according to Nishant Doshi of Symantec.

"Fortunately, these third-parties may not have realized their ability to access this information," Doshi said in a blog post.

"We have reported this issue to Facebook, who has taken corrective action to help eliminate this issue."

Symantec estimated that as of April, nearly 100,000 applications were giving away keys to Facebook profiles.

"We estimate that over the years, hundreds of thousands of applications may have inadvertently leaked millions of access tokens to third parties," Doshi said.

Facebook confirmed the problem, which was discovered by Doshi and Symantec colleague Candid Wueest, according to the computer .

But Facebook said the Symantec report had a few "inaccuracies."

There was no evidence that the problem resulted in private information being gleaned from Facebook members' accounts, according to the California-based service.

"In addition, this report ignores the contractual obligations of advertisers and developers which prohibit them from obtaining or sharing user information in a way that violates our policies," Facebook said.

There was no reliable estimate of how many tokens have been leaked since the release of Facebook applications in 2007.

Despite whatever fix Facebook has put in place, token data may still be stored in files on third-party computers, Symantec warned.

"Concerned Facebook users can change their Facebook passwords to invalidate leaked access tokens," Doshi said.

"Changing the password invalidates these tokens and is equivalent to 'changing the lock' on your Facebook profile."

Explore further: Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Social networking aggregator sues Facebook

Jul 10, 2009

(AP) -- In a counter-punch to the world's biggest online hangout, a small Web company called Power.com has sued Facebook, saying it doesn't follow its own policy of giving users control over their content.

Facebook to keep profiles of the dead

Oct 27, 2009

(AP) -- Death doesn't erase the online footprints that people leave in life and Facebook won't either, though it will make some changes.

Recommended for you

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

15 hours ago

People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

Aug 23, 2014

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

User comments : 0