On Monday, Facebook and its associated apps WhatsApp and Instagram crashed for 7 hours during which users crowded to Twitter and Telegram. But more worryingly, cybersecurity experts and web scrapers are claiming that the data of over 1.5 billion Facebook users may have been leaked online for sale to unscrupulous parties more than 12 hours before the crash.
Dark web and cybersecurity affairs site Privacy Affairs has alleged that data from millions of Facebook users was being sold on the dark web, with initial samples provided by sellers matching to authentic accounts and people. Name, gender, email, location, user ID and phone numbers of users were also advertised for sale.
"The traders claim to have obtained the data by scraping rather than hacking or compromising individual users' accounts. Scraping is a process of web data extraction or harvesting where publicly available data is accessed and organized into lists and databases," writes Miklos Zoltan, founder of Privacy Affairs and cybersecurity expert.
He dismissed any connection to the crash on Monday as the details were available on the dark web from late September and cautioned against believing in rumours of a "hack" as most of the data was compiled from public data. "The fact that phone numbers, real-life location, and users' full names are included in the data is especially concerning. In addition, SMS and Push notification spam are becoming increasingly more prevalent even though most countries made these practices illegal many years ago," he wrote.
Some users of th dark web forum have claimed that although they paid for data, they had not received anything yet, raising questions about the legitimacy of this latest information dump. A similar data leak from Facebook occurred earlier this year.