Facebook will now notify users of government attacks

Facebook has decided to take a more proactive approach to defending the security of its users’ accounts.

Members will now be informed when their account has been targeted by an attacker “suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state” and prompted to turn on a new feature called Login Approvals.

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Once Login Approvals has been activated, users will receive a security code to their phone whenever they login via a new browser or device. Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, explains that the new measures are necessary because state-sponsored attacks are often highly sophisticated.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Facebook’s actions are likely to be welcomed by their users, who until now would have been unaware that such an attack was taking place. However, it is less clear that national governments, particularly those with more draconian Internet policies, will be so receptive to being singled out by the social network.

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In the past Facebook has been accused of colluding with state sponsored surveillance programmes and more cynical observers will likely suggest that the Mark Zuckerberg-owned company is much less likely to flag up government attacks being implemented by the US, than those by Russia or China, for example.

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