Years after Google implemented a similar feature for Gmail users, Facebook says it will begin alerting users if it suspects they’re a target of state-sponsored attacks. That is, if the network believes a user’s account has been either targeted or already compromised by an attacker working on behalf of a nation-state, Facebook will pop up a notification warning them of the incident and instructing them to turn on “Login Approvals” – an additional security mechanism that better protects their Facebook account.
With Login Approvals, users can help prevent others from logging in to their account. After activating this feature, which works somewhat like other two-factor authentication systems, users are alerted when their Facebook account is accessed from a new device or a new web browser. When this occurs, Facebook sends a security code to your phone, so only you – as the phone’s owner – will be able to enter in the code and proceed to log in.
Ideally, this extra layer of protection is something that all Facebook users should have turned on by default, but many are not aware the option exists, or they don’t want the hassle of having to go through an extra step when trying to log in from new devices.
Explaining the new warning message, Alex Stamos, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer, notes that the company has always taken steps to secure accounts it suspects to have been compromised, but it has now decided to show this new warning when it believes an attack is 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,” Stamos says.
Facebook will not disclose how it determines an attack to be state-sponsored versus another type of hack, but it says that will only show the message when it has evidence that “strongly supports” its conclusions. In other words, if you see this message, you will likely need to do more than secure your Facebook account – it’s possible that your computer could be infected with malware as well, which has allowed the attacker a means of entry in the first place.
Facebook advises that those seeing this new warning message also take steps to rebuild or replace their systems, if necessary.
While Google implemented its own system for detecting and warning about state-sponsored attacks back in 2012, it’s not surprising to see Facebook now doing the same. Though the site is primarily a social network, it, too, has communication features including a mailbox you can access on the site as well as an instant messaging program, via Messenger.
Use of these products has increased over the years – Messenger is regularly the number one free app on the App Store, for example. In addition, more activity on Facebook has become private, as well – like posts in closed Facebook groups where users have to be accepted by an admin in order to read others’ entries and share.
The decision to implement this added security feature is only one of Facebook’s more recent moves to better protect user accounts. Recently, the company rolled out a Security Checkup tool, which also offers login alerts when your account is accessed from a new device or browser. The tool helps users log out of Facebook on unused browsers and apps, too.