On Friday Facebook filed a lawsuit against Ukrainian national Alexander Alexandrovich Solonchenko on allegations that he scraped the data of 174 million users. The hack/scrap according to a report by The Record was done by abusing Facebook Messenger’s called Contact Import.
The feature basically allows users to synchronize their mobile phone contacts with Messenger to see who has a Facebook account. This allows users to connect with those in their contact list via Facebook if they so wish.
The hack took place over a period of just over a year, between January 2018 and September 2019. Alexander Alexandrovich reportedly used an automated tool to feed Facebook’s servers random phone numbers.
By doing this Facebook returned the phone numbers of millions of users which Solonchenko then collected. The contacts were then later offered up for sale in a post on an online platform called RaidForums which has a reputation for harbouring stolen data.
Facebook was, however, able to track Alexander Alexandrovich after he had used the same username he used on RaidForums on job portals and email addresses.
“Solonchenko worked as a freelance computer programmer with experience working with several programming languages including Python, PHP, and Xrumer, which is a software used for spamming; automating tasks on Android emulators; and conducting affiliate marketing. Until in or around June 2019, Solonchenko also sold shoes online under the business name ‘Drop Top’”Facebook
Facebook has now asked authorities to issue injunctions that would prohibit Solonchenko from accessing Facebook’s sites as well as selling the information he illegally collected.
It’s worth mentioning that this incident is not the largest instance of user data making its way on the black market. In April this year, hackers scrapped the data of 533 million users revealing the contact information of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg as well.
However, to the point of the Contact Import, Facebook made alterations to the feature on Messenger to avoid data being scaped through it.