The Independent, a media news site, reported Sept. 29 that Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, discovered another embarrassing hack in mid-September, just a few months after the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal. The hackers exploited a bug in the social media’s “View As” feature, and 50 million accounts have been compromised. As in most cases, the stolen data was destined for the dark web, where it is sold for anywhere between $3 and $12. The transactions are settled using cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.
The Dark Web: A Hacker’s Treasure Chest
While it doesn’t make sense that hackers would go to great lengths to steal data and sell it only for $3–$12, it has emerged that if the data is sold separately, they could net anywhere between $150 and $600 million for the hackers.
The data is listed on dark net platforms such as Dream Market, who have a stringent verification process for its vendors. The dark net is an “honorable” place where vendors (criminals in the real world) value their reputation and ratings more than anything else.
The dark net transactions are settled using Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, ahead of true privacy and anonymity cryptocurrencies such as Monero and Verge.
Personal data information is a “hot commodity” on the dark net as they can be used by companies for targeted advertising. A report by Money Guru, a UK-based firm, stated:
“These details are frequently stolen to sell to companies with little scruples about targeted advertising. It’s also a fast track to identity theft as they can take control of your accounts, lock you out and cause serious reputational damage in a short space of time.”
The Cambridge Analytica scandal, which surfaced in March, suggested that the stolen data was allegedly used to influence the results of US presidential elections in 2016.
The relationship between cryptocurrencies and the dark net came into prominence in 2014, when the FBI closed down Ross Ulbricht’s Silk Road marketplace and seized a combined total of 288,342 Bitcoins.
Facebook earlier admitted that hackers took advantage of a “hole in its code,” allowing them to gain access to any account of their choice. So far, 50 million accounts have been affected, but the figure could potentially grow bigger.
Guy Rosen, vice president of product management at Facebook, shed more light on the hack via a Sept. 28 blog post and said that the company had not yet identified those responsible for the hack. He wrote:
“We also don’t know who’s behind these attacks or where they’re based. We’re working hard to better understand these details — and we will update this post when we have more information, or if the facts change.”
After the Cambridge-Analytica scandal, Mitch Steves, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said that privacy issues on Facebook would work in favor of blockchain technology and could pave the way for the adoption of Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention in social media.