After millions of passwords were left exposed internally, the world’s largest social media giant has spoken out.
Facebook user passwords were stored in a readable format within an internal data storage system earlier this year. The BBC reported how the passwords were “accessible by up to 20,000 employees”, citing Brian Krebs’ initial data protection report.
Now Facebook has provided a clarification, by way of a blog post titled ‘Keeping Passwords Secure’. Published on Thursday March 21, and written by Pedro Canahuati (VP Engineering, Security and Privacy), the statement addressed these reports.
The post also explained how Facebook stores passwords. While stressing that there was no evidence that the passwords were exposed externally, Facebook did share advice on how to make profiles more secure.
What did it say about Facebook user passwords being exposed?
Canahuati’s statement began by addressing the news stories around the internal exposure of passwords.
“As part of a routine security review in January, we found that some user passwords were being stored in a readable format within our internal data storage systems,” the post began.
“This caught our attention because our login systems are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable. We have fixed these issues and as a precaution we will be notifying everyone whose passwords we have found were stored in this way.
“To be clear, these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of Facebook and we have found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed them.”
He added: “We estimate that we will notify hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users. Facebook Lite is a version of Facebook predominantly used by people in regions with lower connectivity.
“In the course of our review, we have been looking at the ways we store certain other categories of information — like access tokens — and have fixed problems as we’ve discovered them.
“There is nothing more important to us than protecting people’s information, and we will continue making improvements as part of our ongoing security efforts at Facebook.”
Facebook protects people’s passwords, but how does it do it?
Usually, Facebook masks user passwords, so that no one in the company can see them.
Canahuati added: “In security terms, we ‘hash’ and ‘salt’ the passwords, including using a function called ‘scrypt’ as well as a cryptographic key that lets us irreversibly replace your actual password with a random set of characters.”
This allows Facebook to validate that the user is logging in with the correct credentials, without actually having to store them in plain text.
Facebook says it will notify hundreds of millions of Facebook users and thousands of Instagram users after it found passwords were stored in a readable format (Pedro Canahuati / Facebook)https://t.co/pmc7Sh2RJ4https://t.co/XIjWekoOj9
— Techmeme (@Techmeme) March 21, 2019
The blog post shared all of the different security measures that Facebook has built up to protect user passwords. You can read them here.
Still worried about your account’s security? Here’s what you need to know.
Ok, so no passwords were exposed externally. There is no evidence of abuse so far. Yet, it’s still understandable that some Facebook users will be anxious about their security.
That’s why Canahuati’s post also included some steps to take in order to keep your account protected.
He added: “You can change your password in your settings on Facebook and Instagram. Avoid reusing passwords across different services.
“Pick strong and complex passwords for all your accounts. Password manager apps can help.
“Consider enabling a security key or two-factor authentication to protect your Facebook account using codes from a third-party authentication app. When you log in with your password, we will ask for a security code or to tap your security key to verify that it is you.”
If you wish to find out more about how to keep your account secure, check out; Facebook.com/about/security.
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