Facebook sues scraper who sold 178 million phone numbers and user IDs

Apparently The Social NetworkTM is the only one allowed to do nasty things with users' data


Facebook has sued a Ukrainian national for allegedly harvesting and selling personal data describing 178 million of the Social NetworkTM's users – actions it says violates the service's terms of service.

The suit alleges that Alexander Alexandrovich Solonchenko created millions of virtual Android devices, each with a different phone number, and used them to deliver automated requests to Facebook systems using the Messenger app.

Over 21 months between January 2018 and September 2019, Solonchenko purportedly took advantage of Facebook Messenger's now-defunct Contact Importer feature. The feature allowed users to synchronize their phone address books and see which contacts had an account with The Social NetworkTM, presumably so they could contact them on Messenger rather than through other means.

But Solonchenko didn't really want to chat with 178 million people. Rather – according to court documents [PDF], he performed phone number enumeration scraping and pulled together a database of the publicly accessible user IDs and phone numbers. He then – again allegedly – put them up for sale in early December 2020 on RaidForums.com, a marketplace for questionably obtained data, under the usernames "Solomame" and "Barak_Obama".

"I collected this database [of Facebook user IDs and phone numbers] during 2018y (sic), it's unique and nobody sales exact that leak (sic), I collected it by myself scanning [Facebook] day-by-day during a year (sic)," wrote Solonchenko on the nefarious website, according to Facebook's complaint.

He allegedly sold other data there too – including from a Ukrainian bank, a Ukrainian private delivery service and a French data analytics company. In May 2021, Solonchenko found a buyer for his Facebook trove.

Facebook maintains that since the defendant had at least two Facebook accounts, two Facebook apps, and a Facebook page (not to mention five Instagram accounts), he thereby had agreed at some point to the Terms of Service. These terms prohibit misleading or fraudulent activity, collecting data from Facebook products through automated means, and selling or making platform data available without written consent.

In addition to scraping and selling data, Solonchenko's other career accomplishments include working as a freelance computer programmer. He's skilled in Python, PHP, and Xrumer – software used for spamming. Facebook's complaint indicates the Ukrainian is also handy with an Android emulator, has affiliate marketing skills, and has even served a stint as an online shoe salesman.

According to the complaint, the scraping run used repeating or thematic user names, phone numbers and emails, leaving breadcrumbs to link the same actor to various efforts, both legal and less so.

Facebook said it took measures to detect and disrupt unauthorized automated requests on its systems and limit phone number enumeration scraping. It also shut down the Contact Importer in September 2019 when a threat actor – who was not Solonchenko – used it to leak 533 million Facebook user phone numbers

.

The House That Zuck Built is asking a judge to forbid Solonchenko accessing Facebook sites or selling the data, in addition to unspecified damages. ®

Similar topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • It's 2022 and there are still malware-laden PDFs in emails exploiting bugs from 2017
    Crafty file names, encrypted malicious code, Office flaws – ah, it's like the Before Times

    HP's cybersecurity folks have uncovered an email campaign that ticks all the boxes: messages with a PDF attached that embeds a Word document that upon opening infects the victim's Windows PC with malware by exploiting a four-year-old code-execution vulnerability in Microsoft Office.

    Booby-trapping a PDF with a malicious Word document goes against the norm of the past 10 years, according to the HP Wolf Security researchers. For a decade, miscreants have preferred Office file formats, such as Word and Excel, to deliver malicious code rather than PDFs, as users are more used to getting and opening .docx and .xlsx files. About 45 percent of malware stopped by HP's threat intelligence team in the first quarter of the year leveraged Office formats.

    "The reasons are clear: users are familiar with these file types, the applications used to open them are ubiquitous, and they are suited to social engineering lures," Patrick Schläpfer, malware analyst at HP, explained in a write-up, adding that in this latest campaign, "the malware arrived in a PDF document – a format attackers less commonly use to infect PCs."

    Continue reading
  • New audio server Pipewire coming to next version of Ubuntu
    What does that mean? Better latency and a replacement for PulseAudio

    The next release of Ubuntu, version 22.10 and codenamed Kinetic Kudu, will switch audio servers to the relatively new PipeWire.

    Don't panic. As J M Barrie said: "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again." Fedora switched to PipeWire in version 34, over a year ago now. Users who aren't pro-level creators or editors of sound and music on Ubuntu may not notice the planned change.

    Currently, most editions of Ubuntu use the PulseAudio server, which it adopted in version 8.04 Hardy Heron, the company's second LTS release. (The Ubuntu Studio edition uses JACK instead.) Fedora 8 also switched to PulseAudio. Before PulseAudio became the standard, many distros used ESD, the Enlightened Sound Daemon, which came out of the Enlightenment project, best known for its desktop.

    Continue reading
  • VMware claims 'bare-metal' performance on virtualized GPUs
    Is... is that why Broadcom wants to buy it?

    The future of high-performance computing will be virtualized, VMware's Uday Kurkure has told The Register.

    Kurkure, the lead engineer for VMware's performance engineering team, has spent the past five years working on ways to virtualize machine-learning workloads running on accelerators. Earlier this month his team reported "near or better than bare-metal performance" for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) and Mask R-CNN — two popular machine-learning workloads — running on virtualized GPUs (vGPU) connected using Nvidia's NVLink interconnect.

    NVLink enables compute and memory resources to be shared across up to four GPUs over a high-bandwidth mesh fabric operating at 6.25GB/s per lane compared to PCIe 4.0's 2.5GB/s. The interconnect enabled Kurkure's team to pool 160GB of GPU memory from the Dell PowerEdge system's four 40GB Nvidia A100 SXM GPUs.

    Continue reading
  • Nvidia promises annual updates across CPU, GPU, and DPU lines
    Arm one year, x86 the next, and always faster than a certain chip shop that still can't ship even one standalone GPU

    Computex Nvidia's push deeper into enterprise computing will see its practice of introducing a new GPU architecture every two years brought to its CPUs and data processing units (DPUs, aka SmartNICs).

    Speaking on the company's pre-recorded keynote released to coincide with the Computex exhibition in Taiwan this week, senior vice president for hardware engineering Brian Kelleher spoke of the company's "reputation for unmatched execution on silicon." That's language that needs to be considered in the context of Intel, an Nvidia rival, again delaying a planned entry to the discrete GPU market.

    "We will extend our execution excellence and give each of our chip architectures a two-year rhythm," Kelleher added.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon puts 'creepy' AI cameras in UK delivery vans
    Big Bezos is watching you

    Amazon is reportedly installing AI-powered cameras in delivery vans to keep tabs on its drivers in the UK.

    The technology was first deployed, with numerous errors that reportedly denied drivers' bonuses after malfunctions, in the US. Last year, the internet giant produced a corporate video detailing how the cameras monitor drivers' driving behavior for safety reasons. The same system is now apparently being rolled out to vehicles in the UK. 

    Multiple camera lenses are placed under the front mirror. One is directed at the person behind the wheel, one is facing the road, and two are located on either side to provide a wider view. The cameras are monitored by software built by Netradyne, a computer-vision startup focused on driver safety. This code uses machine-learning algorithms to figure out what's going on in and around the vehicle.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022