Facebook warns users of potential state-sponsored attacks

Those who see the alert are advised to wipe their systems

Facebook will now warn people if it has a strong suspicion an account is being targeted by a nation-state.

The social networking service already takes steps to secure accounts that may have been compromised but has decided to directly alert users of the type of attack that's under way, wrote Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer.

Since state-sponsored attacks can be more sophisticated "having an account compromised in this manner may indicate that your computer or mobile device has been infected with malware," he wrote.

"Ideally, people who see this message should take care to rebuild or replace these systems if possible," Stamos wrote.

The warning advises people to turn on a security feature called login approvals. When Facebook sees someone logging on from a different browser or computer, it sends a one-time passcode to their mobile phone that must be entered in order to access the account.

facebook login approvals Screenshot

Facebook can be an incredibly valuable resource if an attacker can gain the login credentials to someone's account.

A person's messages can be analyzed for sensitive information, and their contact list may be useful for figuring out relationships.

It also gives an attacker an easy way to target other people related to the person. A malicious message could be crafted that would appear to come from a known contact, making it more likely that a victim would trust it.

A variety of ways are used to attribute cyberattacks to a particular group or country, but it's not an exact science. Security experts may get clues from the servers used to mount an attack or a particular type of malware or exploit used to attack a computer.

But attackers usually have stealth on their side. They can use methods or infrastructure that make it either confusing or impossible to definitively source. For its part, Facebook doesn't plan on sharing more information than the warning.

"To protect the integrity of our methods and processes, we often won't be able to explain how we attribute certain attacks to suspected attackers," Stamos wrote. "That said, we plan to use this warning only in situations where the evidence strongly supports our conclusion."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Facebook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?