Over 14 million South Africans included in Facebook data leak

Facebook user data personal information

Over 14 million South Africans had their Facebook data leaked in the recently revealed data incident that hit the social media giant.

That was the finding of an analysis by privacy protection company Surfshark published on 8 April.

In April, the data of 533 million Facebook users was discovered online, freely available for download. The data, which leakers scraped from Facebook using a vulnerability, included personal information such as email addresses, phone numbers, and locations.

Malicious actors scraped the information using Facebook’s contact importer feature. Facebook patched the vulnerability in August 2019, but the data of millions had already been compromised.

South Africans affected by the Facebook leak

Surfshark analysed more than 2.8 billion data points to paint a picture of the leaked information.

On average, five types of data points per user leaked.

“It includes their phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birthdates, bios, and — in some cases — email addresses,” said Surfshark CEO, Vytautas Kaziukonis.

The analysis found that 14.3 million South African Facebook users had their data leaked. The country had the tenth-highest number of impacted users.

The top three countries in the Facebook leak were Egypt (45.2 million), Italy ( 35.7 million), and the US (32.3 million). The top ten countries made up 50% of all the users affected by the leak.

Surfshark found that only 4.76% of users had their email addresses leaked.

However, 89% of users had their phone numbers leaked. The third most exposed data point was phone numbers, after users’ first and last names.

So what does this mean for users?

The company said the biggest implication for the leak was the potential for SMS phishing. This is when hackers impersonate real companies and services to steal a person’s money or personal information.

Surfshark warned users of phishing attempts and listed a few ways to stay safe.

These include checking email and SMS senders, scrutinising link and file attachments, looking out for grammar mistakes, and being aware of the message’s tone and urgency.

You can read more on the analysis on the Surfshark website.

Feature image: Unsplash/Austin Distel

Read more: How to check if your phone number was in the Facebook data leak

Sam Spiller, Staff Writer


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