- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2018

Facebook just found — or more to truth, just acknowledged — a glitch in its security system that allowed hackers to take control of up to 50 million accounts.

There’s a case-in-point of why a technological world is a vulnerable world.

With all this full-steam-ahead chugging toward artificial intelligence, machine learning and technology taking the wheels, Facebook’s hack sends a shockwave message that suggests, to the minds of the smart set, anyway, hey, maybe slowing the roll on some of this computerized development going on around the world isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Maybe, just maybe we could take a breath and look at the vulnerabilities of all technology, all the time.

“This is a very serious security issue,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a statement reported by CNBC. “We’re taking it very seriously.”

You don’t say. But truly, Facebook’s not taking it as seriously as it could — or even should. Peel back the layers of public relations-like messaging and it’s revealed the company first became aware of suspicious activity on its social media sites on Sept. 16.

It first went public with a mea culpa and memo-to-users of assurance, however, on Sept. 28.

Serious minds want to know: Wouldn’t a more serious address of the issue have included an immediate announcement of the seriousness of the issue?

The specific hack attack centered on Facebook’s “View As” feature that allows users to see how their profiles appear to other users. Engineers noticed a coding weakness in this feature that opened the door for hackers to steal individual access tokens, or digital keys — the function on Facebook that allows users to stay logged on, no matter which device they’re using to access the site.

But lookie here — nearly 50 million digital keys were stolen.

Facebook had to scramble to reset those stolen tokens, as well as those for another 40 million or so account holders who’ve used the “View As” feature in the last year. Just to be on the safe side, dontcha know.

But that raises a good point — an even better question. What exactly is the safe side when technology’s involved?

After all, for every safety feature, there’s a safety unlock. For every security device, there’s a crackerjack security hacker who eventually, sooner or later, can discover how to breach the system.

Today’s Facebook is tomorrow’s bank account is next week’s medical and military information. Oh wait, that’s already happened.

“Official: rampant hacking at VA,” blared one Politico headline in 2013, about the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

And in May of 2017, this from NBC: “Target Settles 2013 Hacked Customer Data Breach For $18.5 Million.”

Guess that leaves just one question — and it’s a biggie: So what’s next?

The more we move to technology, the more we’re just not able to answer, or address, that question.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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