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article imageFacebook to issue warnings if it detects government spying

By James Walker     Oct 19, 2015 in Internet
Facebook has announced it is rolling out a new feature that will alert users if it detects they may be spied on by state-sponsored attackers. The warnings will be shown after login and are designed to combat unauthorized government surveillance.
Ars Technica reports that the feature was unveiled by Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos. The company has not disclosed how it determines when users are being monitored because it wants to ensure its methods are not compromised.
Revealing the work that goes on behind the scenes to generate the messages could allow hackers to simply circumvent them, rendering the warnings useless. Facebook says they will only appear where evidence strongly supports the company's conclusion that the government is carrying out a targeted attack on a user.
Affected people will be shown a message titled "Please Secure Your Accounts Now." Addressing the account holder by name, the post outlines how Facebook believes they could be monitored by their government and then urges the use of two-factor authentication for better login security.
Facebook s new  targeted attack  warning
Facebook's new "targeted attack" warning
Alex Stamos, Facebook
The full text of the notification reads as follows: "We believe your Facebook account and your other online accounts may be the target of attacks from state-sponsored actors. Turning on Login Approvals will help keep others from logging into your Facebook account. Whenever your account is accessed from a new device or browser, we'll send a security code to your phone so that only you can log in. We recommend you also take steps to secure the accounts you use on other services."
In a Facebook post, Stamos said account security and the proactive offering of ways to maintain it "is paramount" to the company. He said that Facebook is "constantly" monitoring its network for any signs of malicious activity and that the new targeted attack warnings will be available from today.
He wrote: "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. 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 news follows the E.U. Court of Justice's abolition of the Safe Harbour agreement earlier this month. The agreement made it possible for information to flow freely between the U.S. and E.U., letting companies like Facebook store user data in foreign server farms without user consent, but was terminated after an E.U. citizen complained that Edward Snowden's revelations of NSA snooping mean data transferred from Europe to the U.S. cannot be guaranteed to be safely harboured.
Stamos is keen to stress that the targeted attack warnings on Facebook do not mean data is being directly stolen or that Facebook itself has been compromised. Instead, they are notifications to warn users they should "take care" to rebuild their security systems using two-factor authentication where possible.
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