Commentary

Why Is Facebook Preparing For State-Sponsored Attacks?!

Facebook’s freakin’ me out, man!

I just want to kill some time with a couple cat videos, wish my buddy a very “HBD!” and like my nephew’s latest selfie.

Now, in a disconcerting post, Facebook says it's going to start informing me if my account “has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state.”

Wha?! What does some nation-state want with me and my banal social network?

Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer, says protecting the privacy of users like me has always been the company's top priority. OK, that's totally cool. But what explains the additional security measures?

“We decided to show this additional warning if we have a strong suspicion that an attack could be government-sponsored," according to Stamos. "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."

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In all seriousness, cyber attacks are more common than ever, and many of the most damaging assaults are believed to be state-sanctioned. That's the world in which we're living.

But beyond the potential data disclosers and thievery, one of the great dangers we face is the erosion of consumer confidence in digital platforms.

According to recent research, for example, there's a huge confidence gap in the security of Internet of Things devices between the average consumer and cybersecurity professionals.

The majority (64%) of U.S. consumers say they are confident that they can control their security on IoT devices they own, while only 20% of cyber-security professionals feel the same way.

With its new alerts, Facebook's heart is probably in the right place. The question is how these alerts will impact the consumer psyche and people's willingness to rely more heavily on digital channels.

Personally, the mere suggestion of state-sponsored attacks makes me take a step back.

This column was previously published in Moblog on October 19, 2015.

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