How Old Data Breaches Could Still Put You at Risk

Your data is still your data

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook user data from a 2019 leak was re-released this past weekend. 
  • The re-release of Facebook data puts users at risk for hacking and phishing attempts, as well as robocalls. 
  • Experts say you can do things like changing your password and switching to non-Facebook-owned apps to protect yourself from future leaks.
A closeup of a smartphone displaying the login screen for Facebook.

Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

Those who had Facebook in 2019 could have had their personal data leaked—yet again. 

Business Insider spotted another Facebook data leak over the weekend that reportedly affects 533 million users. If you’re still on Facebook, experts say there are still ways to protect your information from future leaks, even if the social network doesn’t have the best reputation for privacy. 

"The problem with Facebook is that it hides any real privacy settings, and it is not meant to be a privacy platform whatsoever," Rob Shavell, Co-Founder and CEO of DeleteMe, told Lifewire over the phone. 

Another Data Leak

Many users have identified information displayed on their Facebook profile, such as birthdate, phone numbers, family members, and home and work addresses. Although this information can seem harmless to friends, it is valuable for hackers interested in exploiting identity theft information.

Facebook said the latest data leak isn't technically new and that it's simply the same data from a 2019 data leak that was re-released. 

"We have teams dedicated to addressing these kinds of issues and understand the impact they can have on the people who use our services," wrote Mike Clark, Facebook’s Product Management Director, in a blog post about the leak. 

A closeup of someone wearing glasses with binary code reflecting on the lenses.

Danial Haug / Getty Images

"It is important to understand that malicious actors obtained this data not through hacking our systems but by scraping it from our platform prior to September 2019."

Even though it appears Facebook is downplaying the leak, Shavell said it has re-opened the door for hackers to use our information against us. 

"Whether [the leak] happened this year or in 2019, Facebook solicits getting personal info like your phone number, and that's why people get robocalls and spam calls, and why hackers can correlate all this data," Shavell said. 

Aside from robocalls and spam, he said malicious actors can use your leaked information for hacking, phishing, and general online harassment.

Protect Yourself From Future Data Leaks 

While Shavell said it's too late to get off Facebook—and that frankly, you shouldn't have to get off the social network if it's useful to you. But there are still ways to protect yourself from future data leaks on Facebook or any other platform, for that matter. 

Shavell said that the most obvious thing to do should be to change your Facebook password. Not only that, but regularly changing all the passwords to all the sites you access is a smart idea and ensures that each password for each platform is unique.

"Whether [the leak] happened this year or in 2019, Facebook solicits getting personal info like your phone number, and that's why... hackers can correlate all this data,"

Shavell added that being a little bit more strict about the information you share with Facebook is another good idea. "Especially if you know they've gone and lost [your information] and made excuses," he said. 

Ben Taylor, IT consultant and cybersecurity specialist and founder of HomeWorkingClub.com, also said to be selective in activities both in and outside of Facebook. 

"Be selective about what sites and applications are allowed to use your Facebook account, and stop sharing your personal data in exchange for finding out 'Which Simpsons character you are!'" Taylor wrote to Lifewire in an email. 

Check If Your Info Has Been Shared 

Services like DeleteMe can find where your information has been shared on the internet by data brokers and remove it from search results. 

A computer screen displaying a picture of a person holding binoculars to their face with the Facebook logo in place of lenses.

Glen Carrie / Unsplash

"[DeleteMe] lowers the amount of personal information that’s easily discoverable about you that could have come from Facebook," Shavell said. 

Also, there’s a handy website called Have I Been Zucked? where you can see if your data was, in fact, one of the 533 million users a part of this Facebook data leak. 

Shavell said if you are entirely reliant on Facebook-owned messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, you should consider making a switch to a different messaging app, such as Signal. 

"You want to compartmentalize your apps so that Facebook doesn't own all those activities and can correlate those," he said.

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