Symantec Warns Certain Facebook Apps Are Leaking Info to Third Parties

By Michelle Amodio May 11, 2011

It looks like some personal information has yet again been exposed, but this time it’s not all on Sony’s network.

Antivirus software company Symantec says a programming bug on Facebook may have mistakenly given advertisers, and others, a chance to scan the personal information of those using certain apps.

Nearly 100,000 Facebook applications have been inadvertently handing advertisers and online analytics companies, “access tokens,” strings of numbers and letters that can be used by a browser to access Facebook accounts online. The leaks were made via URLs that third parties received, according to a report in PCWorld.

Essentially, Facebook users have been sold out by their applications.

During the application installation process, the application requests the user to grant permissions to these actions. Upon granting these permissions, the application gets an access token.

By default, most access tokens expire after a short time, however the application can request offline access tokens which allow them to use these tokens until a user changes his or her password, even when not logged in.

“Access tokens are like ‘spare keys’ granted by you to the Facebook application. Applications can use these tokens or keys to perform certain actions on behalf of the user or to access the user’s profile. Each token or ‘spare key’ is associated with a select set of permissions, like reading your wall, accessing your friend’s profile, posting to your wall, etc.,” said Symantec in a blog post.

Information that may have been accessed includes profiles, photographs and chat. The access also had the ability to post messages and personal information.

“Fortunately, these third-parties may not have realized their ability to access this information. We have reported this issue to Facebook, who has taken corrective action to help eliminate this issue," Symantec said.

"Unfortunately, Symantec's resulting report has a few inaccuracies," Facebook spokeswoman Malorie Lucich said in a statement. "Specifically, we have conducted a thorough investigation that revealed no evidence of this issue resulting in a user's private information being shared with unauthorized third parties."

Lucich said the report also ignores the contractual obligations of advertisers and developers that prohibit them from obtaining or sharing user information in a way that "violates our policies.”

The remedy is plain and simple – just close this potential security hole for good by changing your password, as that will automatically revoke all previously issued keys.



Michelle Amodio is a TechZone360 contributor. She has helped promote companies and groups in all industries, from technology to banking to professional roller derby. She holds a bachelor's degree in Writing from Endicott College and currently works in marketing, journalism, and public relations as a freelancer.

TechZone360 Contributor

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Modern Moms Shaping Influence

By: Maurice Nagle    7/19/2018

Everyone knows Mom knows best. The internet is enabling a new era in sharing, and sparking a more enlightened, communal shopping experience. Mommy blo…

Read More

Why People Don't Update Their Computers

By: Special Guest    7/13/2018

When the WannaCry ransomware attacked companies all over the world in 2017, experts soon realized it was meant to be stopped by regular updating. Even…

Read More

More Intelligence About The New Intelligence

By: Rich Tehrani    7/9/2018

TMC recently announced the launch of three new artificial intelligence events under the banner of The New Intelligence. I recently spoke with TMC's Ex…

Read More

Technology, Innovation, and Compliance: How Businesses Approach the Digital Age

By: Special Guest    6/29/2018

Organizations must align internally to achieve effective innovation. Companies should consider creating cross-functional teams or, at a minimum, incre…

Read More

Contribute Your Brain Power to The New Intelligence

By: Paula Bernier    6/28/2018

The three events that are part of The New Intelligence are all about how businesses and service providers, and their customers, can benefit from artif…

Read More