The Importance of Security Online – Facebook’s Error

It is easy to make the assumption that a large number of internet users today make use of social networking sites; most notably, Facebook. Click here to visit our profile page.

If you happened to be using Facebook yesterday evening (05/05/2010) you may have noticed that Facebook Chat was temporarily disabled for around 2 hours. Now it is routine for Facebook to temporarily disable certain areas of their site whilst performing system maintenance, or whilst rolling out new features and updates. However they tend to do this when system usage is at its lowest, normally when the majority of US and European users are offline. Yet this period of inactivity occurred some time roughly between the hours of 6pm and 9pm GMT.

What Facebook will not jump at the chance to tell you is that this was in fact due to a widespread security breach of its privacy settings across the entire system. For a period of time prior to the temporary removal of Facebook Chat, users were able to spy on the conversations of friends through the chat module. A video better explaining the process behind the breach has been posted to, originally found on TechCrunch, which can be seen below.

Naturally, this post is not a simple run down of this Facebook security hole. This is, however, a useful tool in highlighting the importance of security online, particularly when dealing with end-user information. In this case, Facebook responded quickly and efficiently to the issue, which is an important factor to remember when dealing with sensitive user information. The quote below is a response from Facebook regarding the security flaw.

“For a limited period of time, a bug permitted some users’ chat messages and pending friend requests to be made visible to their friends by manipulating the “preview my profile” feature of Facebook privacy settings. When we received reports of the problem, our engineers promptly diagnosed it and temporarily disabled the chat function. We also pushed out a fix to take care of the visible friend requests which is now complete. Chat will be turned back on across the site shortly. We worked quickly to resolve this matter, ensuring that once the bug was reported to us, a solution was quickly found and implemented.”

So what does this mean when looking at security as a whole? Well it certainly illustrates the fact that even the biggest online service providers can make critical mistakes. Of course, this isn’t actually a security breach as such, with no external intrusion playing a part in this particular security issue. This was a strictly internal affair. Yet it still brings to light the importance of solid security when dealing with online information.

Netwise Hosting hold security as one of the single most important factors when considering any online service solution, whether that be a dedicated server platform, online backup solution or a tailored colocation package. With speed, security and stability being our standing three-point mantra, any solution hosted on our private network is subject to industry-leading security measures to ensure external breaches are drastically minimised (or even removed entirely).

Of course, how data is handled inside the network by site users is a different issue entirely, and relies on the efficiency of site operations and users own security measures. But with this still in consideration, surrounding your system with world class top-level security is hugely important in maintaining peace of mind, both for you as a system owner and as end-users of the system.

Avoid the drama of a security breach in every way you can. As mentioned, the Facebook fiasco was down to internal faults of their own, but maintaining a solid barrier against external intruders is still of severe importance. Visit Netwise Hosting today for an online service you can trust.

One Comment

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