Facebook Lawsuit Details How Alleged Hackers Used Fun Quizzes to Steal User Data

March 11, 2019, 10:45 PM UTC

Facebook is suing two Ukrainian men for allegedly using a set of seemingly benign quizzes to trick as many as 63,000 users into installing malicious browser extensions that mined a person’s profile data and friends list, according to a federal lawsuit.

Two Ukrainian entrepreneurs, Andrey Gorbachov and Gleb Sluchevsky, were named as defendants in the lawsuit, which detailed an alleged scheme that targeted Russian and Ukrainian speakers on at least four websites unaffiliated with Facebook. The applications used were called “Supertest,””FQuiz,” “megatest,” and “Pechenka,” according to a complaint posted online by The Daily Beast.

The websites offered an eclectic mix of quizzes, such as What Does Your Eye Color Say About You, and What Kind of Person Do People Think You Are? The quizzes used the Facebook Login feature, which allows people to consent to connections between third party apps and their profiles. After a user logged in with their Facebook account, the defendants were able to direct their targets to install malicious browser extensions, which were able to scrape profile data, including publicly visible information and a person’s friends list. The malicious browser extensions were also used to “inject unauthorized advertisements when the app users visited Facebook or other social networking site as part of their online browsing,” according to the complaint.

Facebook said the activity started in 2016 and stopped in October 2018 when the defendants, who are believed to work for a software company called Web Sun Group, were kicked off the platform. Facebook estimated it spent more than $75,000 investigating the alleged malicious activity.

The lawsuit comes as Facebook faces its biggest test yet amid increasing calls from lawmakers to regulate or break up the company. Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted an essay about privacy and said he wants to focus on encrypted messaging on Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

“As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I expect future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network.”

It’s been a roller coaster year for Facebook investors. Facebook stock price is slowly rebounding, but is still down 21% from the company’s 52-week high.