A database containing the phone numbers of hundreds of millions of Facebook users has been found on the internet, easily accessible to the public. It was discovered by a researcher working for the non-profit company – GDI Foundation.
This database contains telephone numbers of millions of Facebook users. And it was unprotected, meaning anyone with an internet connection could access this information. The database affects 133 million Facebook users in the U.S., 18 million Facebook users in the U.K., and 50 million Facebook users in Vietnam.
What Information Was Found?
According to TechCruch, the database contained the records of each Facebook user’s unique ID, the mobile phone number they registered their account with, the gender and name of the user, as well as their location. A Facebook user ID is a long, unique number associated with the account. It is used to identify the username of the Facebook account.
The records in this database were verified by Tech Crunch. However, the exact source of the database has not been found. It is most likely a year old, before Facebook restricted public access to user’s phone numbers.
Facebook confirmed this breach. The company also noted that after removing duplicate records from the database, only 210 million users’ information remained. The database also appears to have been scrapped, meaning someone copied and pasted the telephone numbers into the database back when they were still visible to the public on Facebook.
How Will This Affect You?
Telephone numbers were often public information just 10 years ago. Today, however, phone numbers are valuable pieces of information to cybercriminals. Unlike landlines, phone numbers today are often connected to smartphones, which are linked to personal information such as your home address, bank account information, and more.
Once a cybercriminal takes hold of your phone number, it enables them to complete SIM-card swap operations. This means the criminal can contact your cellphone provider and give them your personal information so they can impersonate you. Then, the criminal can ask your cellphone provider for a replacement SIM card to be sent to the criminal’s address.
Once the criminal receives the replacement SIM card they can use it to activate their own smartphone. Your phone will go dead and the criminal will now have access to all the information linked to your SIM card. You can learn more about how this scam works here.
How To Protect Yourself
Of course, the best way to protect yourself is to get a new phone number for yourself immediately. Some cellphone providers can give you a new phone number for free or for a small cost.
If you are reluctant to change your phone number, either due to the inconvenience or the costs, consider adding a pin number to your SIM card. You can do this easily by logging into your online account with your cellphone service provider, or by contacting them directly.
You can also consider installing a mobile protection software on your smartphone. We recommend McAfee, as it has a function to alert you of a SIM card change so you’ll know if a criminal tries to do a SIM card swap on your account.
And lastly, always stay vigilant. If you notice that your phone has stopped working or if you are no longer receiving some text messages, contact your cellphone service provider immediately.
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