KEY POINTS

  • A Facebook data breach exposed over 500 million users' personal information
  • According to Facebook, the actual hack took place a couple of years ago
  • Despite this, users may want to check if their data have been compromised
  • They can also follow some tips to protect their data

Cybersecurity experts revealed a few days ago that over half a billion Facebook users' personal information have been leaked. It's a gold mine of data, which includes users' full names, birthdays, locations and phone numbers.

Although Facebook claims that the actual hack happened a couple of years ago, it won't hurt if users made sure their account is not part of the breach and if they are, they should take a few preventive measures to ensure future incidents as messy as this one won't affect them. 

How To Check If Your Account Is Part Of Facebook Data Breach

Australian Security Researcher and HaveIBeenPawned Founder Tony Hunt recently added the 533 million phone numbers exposed in the Facebook data leak to his website. Those worried if their mobile numbers were part of the leak can visit the site and check if their number is there. The site originally caters to people who want to check if their passwords or email addresses have been compromised in data leaks and breaches. 

Other sites like The News Each Day and Facebook Checker also offer users a way to check phone numbers against the leaked Facebook database. Users simply need to key in their mobile numbers on the site to check if their info was part of the leak.

Facebook political ads may resume in the United States from March 4, 2021, as the social network lifts a ban imposed following the November 2020 election Facebook political ads may resume in the United States from March 4, 2021, as the social network lifts a ban imposed following the November 2020 election Photo: AFP / Chris DELMAS

Preventive Measures Facebook Users Should Take

Once users find out that their personal details were included in the breach, unfortunately, there is not much they can do for now as the details are already out. Malicious attackers can use such pieces of information for phishing attempts, brute-force entry into accounts or password resets.

This whole data breach issue underscores the importance of using dummy information when signing up for an account, particularly on social media, according to Lifehacker. Facebook users should avoid supplying alternative information like educational history, places they have lived in, interests, work history and other unnecessary details that could expose their identity.

Additionally, they could provide dummy information like an invented name or a fake birthdate when asked. Another alternative is by creating a separate email address for that particular social media account instead of using a personal email address. 

When asked for a phone number, users can provide a mobile number that is not their actual phone number if it is needed to sign up for an account. Moreover, they could provide a slightly modified version of their real name but refrain from using the same screen or display name across all social media accounts. 

These preventive measures are crucial because hackers would have a hard time using data extracted from one breach to affect the owner elsewhere. Malicious attackers would find it difficult to "social engineer" their way into the user's account. Dummy information will not reveal anything about the person's real identity and that's something hackers would not be happy about.