Facebook sues Ukrainians for using browser extensions to steal user data

Ceria Alfonso
Marcha 14, 2019

Two Ukrainian hackers used malicious browser extensions to overlay their own advertisements onto Facebook's news feedTwo Ukrainian men used online quizzes to lure more than 60,000 Facebook users into installing malicious browser extensions that leaked their profile data and friends lists to offshore servers, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the company.

In the complaint, the company has claimed that in total, both of these accused used Facebook users to use around 63 thousand browsers and damaged Facebook 75 thousand pounds.

The social network giant has been at the center of a firestorm for almost two years after it was discovered that Cambridge Analytica obtained user data for 2016 election meddling.

The move has some wondering how a privacy-driven social media company can be profitable, given that Facebook earns profits from advertising dollars and has the second-largest hold on the digital ad market behind Google. Among the data stole were a user's name, age range, and profile picture, along with their friends' list. The quizzes often featured such headlines as: "What kind of dog are you according to your zodiac sign?", according to CNN. The hackers used the obtained data to target Facebook's users with a malicious request to install a browser extension. This announcement made by the company came at the same time when a report on the BBC revealed that there had been a breach on people's private messages on the website.

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The extensions would then take data from social networking sites including Facebook.

Facebook attempts to distance itself from fault in the suit, claiming that users "effectively compromised their own browsers" by installing the extensions. However, Facebook refused to give an immediate response as to whether Gleb Sulchevsky and Andrey Gorbachov were the culprits then. Last year, the BBC questioned whether Facebook had been proactive enough in addressing the malicious plugins.

Facebook filed a similar lawsuit last week, suing four Chinese companies that allegedly sold fake Facebook accounts and user engagement.

The scheme seemingly wouldn't have worked, however, if Facebook hadn't approved the hackers as developers who could use its Facebook Login feature. If granted, the injunction could bar them from creating any more apps targeting Facebook users.

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