Facebook to become watchdog for nation-state cyberattacks

19 Oct 2015

Facebook is looking to put an extra layer of security between its users and the nation-states with the rolling out of notifications that will alert someone when it is believed they are under surveillance.

In the age of the Edward Snowden revelations, it has become increasingly likely that someone may be snooped on or, for whatever reason, be subjected to a state-sponsored cyberattack.

And, it appears that Facebook now wants to be the watchdog for the average internet user by sending a person a notification when its algorithms are fairly certain that they are indeed coming under attack from a nation-state.

According to its chief security officer, Alex Stamos, the need for this extra security and notification is because the resources and potential power nation-states have is arguably greater than any individual or hacker group.

“While we have always taken steps to secure accounts that we believe to have been compromised, we decided to show this additional warning if we have a strong suspicion that an attack could be government-sponsored,” Stamos said.

Facebook notification message

How the Facebook notification message appears.

States more powerful than individuals

“We do this because these types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts.”

The actual notification will appear on the user’s page advising them to turn on login approvals that will ask the person, if signing in from a new device, to enter a security code sent to them by Facebook.

The social network is typically one of the first aspects of a person’s online life that nation-states engaging in cyberattacks will target given its vast wealth of personal interests and contact details, while it also gives access to their entire network of friends and acquaintances who could also be targeted by a cyberattack.

Concluding, Stamos said that Facebook does not plan on revealing how it knows when a nation-state is responsible: “To protect the integrity of our methods and processes, we often won’t be able to explain how we attribute certain attacks to suspected attackers.”

Facebook on mobile image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic