Social networking platform, Facebook is suing two Ukrainian hackers posed as online quiz-makers, for harvesting users’ private data.
The lawsuit which was filed in North Carolina over the weekend accused the hackers: Gleb Sluchevsky and Andrey Gorbachov for operating a years-long hacking scheme on Facebook.
According to the lawsuit, Gorbachov and Sluchevsky operated online quizzes and survey with catchy titles like “What does your profile picture say your personality?” “What’s your intellectual age?” to pull innocent users into signing in with their Facebook accounts.
While the online quiz promised to collect limited user information, they cajoled users into installing a malware web extension plugin on their browsers.
This gave them access to private user data, including access to their private friends’ list. This malware also allowed the hackers to pose as the users they had affected.
From 2017 to 2018, Facebook alleges that the hackers ran four online quiz apps including FQuiz and Supertest and have infected over 60,000 user browsers, most of them from Russia and Ukraine. They not only stole users’ data but also injected their own ads into their News Feeds; these ads Facebook noted, were not the approved ads allowed to run on the platform.
Facebook also accused Gorbachov and Sluchevsky of effectively compromising their own browsers by installing plugins. In retrospect, Facebook had approved the hackers – who were registered under Amanda Pitt and Elena Stelmah – as developers to use its login feature.
The platform had discovered their scheme after a thorough investigation of malware extensions and had suspended the accounts since October last year. Facebook had also contacted browser makers to remove their plugins.
Accessing users’ data without authorization is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; this breach Facebook notes it had suffered irreparable reputational harm from. By filing the complaint, Facebook is reinforcing that fraudulent activity will not be tolerated on its platform.
In a similar case, Facebook sued 4 Chinese-based firms for marketing multiple fake accounts for sale on the platform and other social media platforms.