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Irish Regulators Fine Facebook $414 Million for Forcing Users to Accept Targeted Ads

Irish Regulators Fine Facebook $414 Million for Forcing Users to Accept Targeted Ads

Jan 05, 2023 Privacy / Data Protection
The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) has  fined  Meta Platforms €390 million (roughly $414 million) over its handling of user data for serving personalized ads in what could be a major blow to its ad-fueled business model. To that end, the privacy regulator has ordered Meta Ireland to pay two fines – a €210 million ($222.5 million) fine over violations of the E.U. General Data Protection Regulation ( GDPR ) related to Facebook, and a €180 million ($191 million) for similar violations in Instagram. The latest enforcement comes in the wake of concerns that the social media company used its Terms of Service to gain users' forced consent to allow targeted advertising based on their online activity. The complaints were filed on May 25, 2018, the date when GDPR came into effect in the region. It also arrives a month after the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), an independent body that oversees the consistent application of GDPR in the E.U.,  announced  that it had reached 
Facebook to Pay $725 Million to settle Lawsuit Over Cambridge Analytica Data Leak

Facebook to Pay $725 Million to settle Lawsuit Over Cambridge Analytica Data Leak

Dec 27, 2022 Data Security / Privacy
Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a long-running class-action lawsuit filed in 2018. The legal dispute sprang up in response to revelations that the social media giant allowed third-party apps such as those used by Cambridge Analytica to access users' personal information without their consent for political advertising. The proposed settlement, first  reported  by Reuters last week, is the latest penalty paid by the company in the wake of a  number  of  privacy   mishaps   through the years . It still requires the approval of a federal judge in the San Francisco division of the U.S. District Court. It's worth noting that Facebook previously sought to  dismiss the lawsuit  in September 2019,  claiming  users have no legitimate privacy interest in any information they make available to their friends on social media. The  data harvesting scandal , which  came  to  light  in March 2018, involved a
Facebook Cracks Down on Spyware Vendors from U.S., China, Russia, Israel, and India

Facebook Cracks Down on Spyware Vendors from U.S., China, Russia, Israel, and India

Dec 19, 2022 Cyber Attacks / Surveillance
Meta Platforms disclosed that it took down no less than 200 covert influence operations since 2017 spanning roughly 70 countries across 42 languages. The social media conglomerate also took steps to disable accounts and block infrastructure operated by spyware vendors, including in China, Russia, Israel, the U.S. and India, that targeted individuals in about 200 countries. "The global surveillance-for-hire industry continues to grow and indiscriminately target people – including journalists, activists, litigants, and political opposition – to collect intelligence, manipulate and compromise their devices and accounts across the internet," the company  noted  in a report published last week. The networks that were found to engage in coordinated inauthentic behavior ( CIB ) originated from 68 countries. More than 100 nations are said to have been targeted by at least one such network, either foreign or domestic. With 34 operations, the U.S. emerged as the most frequently ta
Irish Regulator Fines Facebook $277 Million for Leak of Half a Billion Users' Data

Irish Regulator Fines Facebook $277 Million for Leak of Half a Billion Users' Data

Nov 29, 2022
Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) has  levied fines  of €265 million ($277 million) against Meta Platforms for failing to safeguard the personal data of more than half a billion users of its Facebook service, ramping up privacy enforcement against U.S. tech firms. The fines follow an inquiry initiated by the European regulator on April 14, 2021, close on the heels of a leak of a "collated dataset of Facebook personal data that had been made available on the internet." This included the  personal information  associated with 533 million users of the social media platform, such as their phone numbers, dates of birth, locations, email addresses, gender, marital status, account creation date, and other profile details. Meta acknowledged that the information was "old data" that was obtained by malicious actors by taking advantage of a technique called "phone number enumeration" to  scrape users' public profiles . This entailed misusing a t
Ducktail Malware Operation Evolves with New Malicious Capabilities

Ducktail Malware Operation Evolves with New Malicious Capabilities

Nov 23, 2022
The operators of the Ducktail information stealer have demonstrated a "relentless willingness to persist" and continued to update their malware as part of an ongoing financially driven campaign. "The malware is designed to steal browser cookies and take advantage of authenticated Facebook sessions to steal information from the victim's Facebook account," WithSecure researcher Mohammad Kazem Hassan Nejad  said  in a new analysis. "The operation ultimately hijacks Facebook Business accounts to which the victim has sufficient access. The threat actor uses their gained access to run ads for monetary gain." Attributed to a Vietnamese threat actor, the Ducktail campaign is designed to target businesses in the digital marketing and advertising sectors which are active on the Facebook Ads and Business platform. Also targeted are individuals within prospective companies that are likely to have high-level access to Facebook Business accounts. This includes
Meta Takes Down Fake Facebook and Instagram Accounts Linked to Pro-U.S. Influence Operation

Meta Takes Down Fake Facebook and Instagram Accounts Linked to Pro-U.S. Influence Operation

Nov 23, 2022
Meta Platforms on Tuesday said it took down a network of accounts and pages across Facebook and Instagram that were operated by people associated with the U.S. military to spread narratives that depicted the country in a favorable light in the Middle East and Central Asia. The network, which originated from the U.S., primarily singled out Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The social media giant stated the individuals behind the activity impersonated the communities they targeted, propagating content in Arabic, Farsi, and Russian that floated themes of increased military cooperation with the U.S., and criticized Iran, China, and Russia. These narratives spanned "Russia's invasion of Ukraine, China's treatment of the Uyghur people, Iran's influence in the Middle East, and the support of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by Russia and China," Meta  said  in its Quarterly Adversaria
Meta Reportedly Fires Dozens of Employees for Hijacking Users' Facebook and Instagram Accounts

Meta Reportedly Fires Dozens of Employees for Hijacking Users' Facebook and Instagram Accounts

Nov 18, 2022
Meta Platforms is said to have fired or disciplined over two dozen employees and contractors over the past year for allegedly compromising and taking over user accounts, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Some of these cases involved bribery, the publication said, citing sources and documents. Included among those fired were contractors who worked as security guards at the social media firm's facilities and were given access to an internal tool that allowed employees to help "users they know" gain access to accounts after forgetting their passwords, or had their accounts locked out. The system, called "Oops" and short for Online Operations, is off limits to a vast majority of the platform's users, leading to the rise of a "cottage industry of intermediaries" who charge users thousands of dollars and reach out to insiders who are willing to reset the accounts. "You really have to have someone on the inside who will actually do it
This Hidden Facebook Tool Lets Users Remove Their Email or Phone Number Shared by Others

This Hidden Facebook Tool Lets Users Remove Their Email or Phone Number Shared by Others

Nov 07, 2022
Facebook appears to have silently rolled out a tool that allows users to remove their contact information, such as phone numbers and email addresses, uploaded by others. The existence of the  tool , which is buried inside a  Help Center page  about " Friending ," was first reported by  Business Insider  last week. It's offered as a way for "Non-users" to "exercise their rights under applicable laws." An Internet Archive search via the Wayback Machine  shows  that the option has been available since at least May 29, 2022. When users  sync the contact lists  on their devices with Facebook (or any other service), it's worth pointing out the  privacy violation , which stems from the fact that those contacts didn't explicitly consent to the upload. "Someone may have uploaded their address book to Facebook, Messenger, or Instagram with your contact information in it," Facebook notes in the page. "You can ask us to confirm whether
Facebook Detects 400 Android and iOS Apps Stealing Users Log-in Credentials

Facebook Detects 400 Android and iOS Apps Stealing Users Log-in Credentials

Oct 07, 2022
Meta Platforms on Friday disclosed that it had identified over 400 malicious apps on Android and iOS that it said targeted online users with the goal of stealing their Facebook login information. "These apps were listed on the Google Play Store and Apple's App Store and disguised as photo editors, games, VPN services, business apps, and other utilities to trick people into downloading them," the social media behemoth  said  in a report shared with The Hacker News. 42.6% of the rogue apps were photo editors, followed by business utilities (15.4%), phone utilities (14.1%), games (11.7%), VPNs (11.7%), and lifestyle apps (4.4%). Interestingly, a majority of the iOS apps posed as ads manager tools for Meta and its Facebook subsidiary. Besides concealing its malicious nature as a set of seemingly harmless apps, the operators of the scheme also published fake reviews that were designed to offset the negative reviews left by users who may have previously downloaded the apps
Facebook Shuts Down Covert Political 'Influence Operations' from Russia and China

Facebook Shuts Down Covert Political 'Influence Operations' from Russia and China

Sep 28, 2022
Meta Platforms on Tuesday disclosed it took steps to dismantle two covert influence operations originating from China and Russia for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB) so as to manipulate public debate. While the Chinese operation sets its sights on the U.S. and the Czech Republic, the Russian network primarily targeted Germany, France, Italy, Ukraine and the U.K. with themes surrounding the ongoing war in Ukraine. "The largest and most complex Russian operation we've disrupted since the war in Ukraine began, it ran a sprawling network of over 60 websites impersonating news organizations, as well as accounts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram, Twitter, Change.org and Avaaz, and even LiveJournal," the social media behemoth  said . The sophisticated Russian activity, which commenced in May 2022, impersonated mainstream European news outlets like Der Spiegel, The Guardian, and Bild, not to mention build credibility by creating fake accounts across
Facebook Testing Default End-to-End Encryption and Encrypted Backups in Messenger

Facebook Testing Default End-to-End Encryption and Encrypted Backups in Messenger

Aug 12, 2022
Social media company Meta said it will begin testing end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on its Messenger platform this week for select users as the default option, as the company continues to slowly add security layers to its various chat services. "If you're in the test group, some of your most frequent chats may be automatically end-to-end encrypted, which means you won't have to opt in to the feature," Sara Su, product management director of Messenger Trust,  said . The incremental development comes a year after it  turned on E2EE  for audio and video calls on the messaging service as well as for one-on-one chats in Instagram, and enabled  encrypted chat backups  for WhatsApp on Android and iOS. E2EE is a secure communication mechanism that scrambles data in transit and prevents third-parties from unauthorizedly accessing information sent from one endpoint to another, including Meta. "This is because with end-to-end encryption, your messages are secured with a
Meta Cracks Down on Cyber Espionage Operations in South Asia Abusing Facebook

Meta Cracks Down on Cyber Espionage Operations in South Asia Abusing Facebook

Aug 08, 2022
Facebook parent company Meta disclosed that it took action against two espionage operations in South Asia that leveraged its social media platforms to distribute malware to potential targets. The first set of activities is what the company described as "persistent and well-resourced" and undertaken by a hacking group tracked under the moniker Bitter APT (aka APT-C-08 or T-APT-17) targeting individuals in New Zealand, India, Pakistan, and the U.K. "Bitter used various malicious tactics to target people online with social engineering and infect their devices with malware," Meta  said  in its Quarterly Adversarial Threat Report. "They used a mix of link-shortening services, malicious domains, compromised websites, and third-party hosting providers to distribute their malware." The attacks involved the threat actor creating fictitious personas on the platform, masquerading as attractive young women in a bid to build trust with targets and lure them into cl
New Ducktail Infostealer Malware Targeting Facebook Business and Ad Accounts

New Ducktail Infostealer Malware Targeting Facebook Business and Ad Accounts

Jul 27, 2022
Facebook business and advertising accounts are at the receiving end of an ongoing campaign dubbed  Ducktail  designed to seize control as part of a financially driven cybercriminal operation.  "The threat actor targets individuals and employees that may have access to a Facebook Business account with an information-stealer malware," Finnish cybersecurity company WithSecure (formerly F-Secure Business)  said  in a new report. "The malware is designed to steal browser cookies and take advantage of authenticated Facebook sessions to steal information from the victim's Facebook account and ultimately hijack any Facebook Business account that the victim has sufficient access to." The attacks, attributed to a Vietnamese threat actor, are said to have begun in the latter half of 2021, with primary targets being individuals with managerial, digital marketing, digital media, and human resources roles in companies. The idea is to target employees with high-level acc
Cytrox's Predator Spyware Targeted Android Users with Zero-Day Exploits

Cytrox's Predator Spyware Targeted Android Users with Zero-Day Exploits

May 20, 2022
Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) on Thursday pointed fingers at a North Macedonian spyware developer named Cytrox for developing exploits against five zero-day (aka 0-day) flaws, four in Chrome and one in Android, to target Android users. "The 0-day exploits were used alongside n-day exploits as the developers took advantage of the time difference between when some critical bugs were patched but not flagged as security issues and when these patches were fully deployed across the Android ecosystem," TAG researchers Clement Lecigne and Christian Resell  said . Cytrox is alleged to have packaged the exploits and sold them to different government-backed actors located in Egypt, Armenia, Greece, Madagascar, Côte d'Ivoire, Serbia, Spain, and Indonesia, who, in turn, weaponized the bugs in at least three different campaigns. The commercial surveillance company is the maker of  Predator , an implant  analogous  to that of NSO Group's  Pegasus , and is known to hav
Facebook Hit With $18.6 Million GDPR Fine Over 12 Data Breaches in 2018

Facebook Hit With $18.6 Million GDPR Fine Over 12 Data Breaches in 2018

Mar 16, 2022
The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) on Tuesday slapped Facebook and WhatsApp owner Meta Platforms a fine of €17 million (~$18.6 million) for a series of security lapses that occurred in violation of the European Union's  GDPR laws  in the region. "The DPC found that Meta Platforms failed to have in place appropriate technical and organizational measures which would enable it to readily demonstrate the security measures that it implemented in practice to protect EU users' data, in the context of the twelve personal data breaches," the watchdog  said  in a press release. The decision follows the regulator's investigation into 12  data   breach   notifications  it received over the course of a six-month period between June 7 and December 4, 2018. "This fine is about record keeping practices from 2018 that we have since updated, not a failure to protect people's information," Meta  said  in a statement shared with the Associated Press. "
Facebook Agrees to Pay $90 Million to Settle Decade-Old Privacy Violation Case

Facebook Agrees to Pay $90 Million to Settle Decade-Old Privacy Violation Case

Feb 16, 2022
Meta Platforms has agreed to pay $90 million to settle a lawsuit over the company's use of cookies to allegedly track Facebook users' internet activity even after they had logged off from the platform. In addition, the social media company will be required to delete all of the data it illegally collected from those users. The development was first reported by  Variety . The decade-old case, filed in 2012, centered around Facebook's use of the proprietary "Like" button to track users as they visited third-party websites – regardless of whether they actually used the button – in violation of the federal wiretapping laws, and then allegedly compiling those browsing histories into profiles for selling the information to advertisers. Based on the terms of the proposed settlement, users who browsed non-Facebook websites that included the "Like" button between April 22, 2010, and September 26, 2011, will be covered. "Reaching a settlement in this cas
Facebook Launches 'Privacy Center' to Educate Users on Data Collection and Privacy Options

Facebook Launches 'Privacy Center' to Educate Users on Data Collection and Privacy Options

Jan 08, 2022
Meta Platforms, the company formerly known as Facebook, on Friday announced the launch of a centralized Privacy Center that aims to "educate people" about its approach with regards to how it collects and processes personal information across its family of social media apps. "Privacy Center provides helpful information about five common privacy topics: sharing, security, data collection, data use and ads," the social technology firm  said  in a press release. The first module, Security, will offer easy access to common tools such as account security settings and two-factor authentication. Sharing will provide specifics about post visibility and settings to archive or trash old posts. Collection and Use will give users a quick glance into the type of data Meta harvests and learn how and why it's used, respectively. Lastly, the Ads section will furnish information regarding a user's ad preferences. The learning hub is expected to be initially limited to a s
France Fines Google, Facebook €210 Million Over Privacy Violating Tracking Cookies

France Fines Google, Facebook €210 Million Over Privacy Violating Tracking Cookies

Jan 07, 2022
The Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL), France's data protection watchdog, has slapped Facebook (now Meta Platforms) and Google with fines of €150 million ($170 million) and €60 million ($68 million) for violating E.U. privacy rules by failing to provide users with an easy option to reject cookie tracking technology. "The websites facebook.com, google.fr and youtube.com offer a button allowing the user to immediately accept cookies," the  authority   said . "However, they do not provide an equivalent solution (button or other) enabling the Internet user to easily refuse the deposit of these cookies." Facebook told  TechCrunch  that it was reviewing the ruling, while Google said it's working to change its practices in response to the CNIL fines. HTTP cookies are small pieces of data created while a user is browsing a website and placed on the user's computer or other device by the user's web browser to track online
Meta Sues Hackers Behind Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram Phishing Attacks

Meta Sues Hackers Behind Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram Phishing Attacks

Dec 21, 2021
Facebook's parent company Meta Platforms on Monday said it has filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. state of California against bad actors who operated more than 39,000 phishing websites that impersonated its digital properties to mislead unsuspecting users into divulging their login credentials. The social engineering scheme involved the creation of rogue webpages that masqueraded as the login pages of Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, on which victims were prompted to enter their usernames and passwords that were then harvested by the defendants. The tech giant is also seeking $500,000 from the anonymous actors. The attacks were carried out using a relay service, Ngrok , that redirected internet traffic to the phishing websites in a manner that concealed the true location of the fraudulent infrastructure. Meta said the volume of these phishing attacks ramped up in volume since March 2021 and that it worked with the relay service to suspend thousands of URLs to the
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