Facebook announced on Thursday that it was investigating a report claiming that a database containing personal details of millions of users were leaked online in a data breach.

Security researchers found that more than 267 million Facebook users had their personal information, including their names, Facebook IDs and phone numbers, leaked in an online database.

Facebook is investigating the data breach

facebook
Facebook Pixabay

The database was available for download on an online hacker forum, which apparently belongs to a cybercrime group, without password protection for a duration of about two weeks before it was taken down, according to Comparitech, a tech website, and Bob Diachenko, a data-security researcher.

Facebook released a statement saying that they are investigating the data breach but believe the information was exposed before the company introduced changes over the last few years to safeguard user data.

How can the leaked data be misused?

Spam message
Spam message Pixabay

Diachenko revealed that 267,140,436 accounts were leaked online and most of them are from the United States. The report added that the affected users' name and phone number could be misused for spam messages or other phishing attempts by the bad guys.

The leaked information was already available to anyone and everyone on Facebook until April 2018, after which Facebook imposed tighter restrictions following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

How to protect your account?

In order to ensure your Facebook data is protected, you need to go into your settings by clicking on the dropdown arrow located on the top-right corner of the desktop browser screen, and click on "Privacy." Under "Privacy Settings and Tools," limit all available options to "Friends" instead of "Everyone" and you should be fine.

Facebook's privacy issues

This isn't the first time Facebook has suffered a data breach this year. A separate treasure trove of information of 49 million users on Facebook-owned Instagram was leaked online in May this year, as previously reported. More recently, a database containing personal information of 419 million Facebook users was found on an exposed server in September.

These data breach raises questions about whether the company is doing enough to protect the data of its billions of users. It is also a stark reminder that one should be wary about what information they share on the social network.