Facebook sues Ukrainian for stealing data

A Ukrainian programmer who collected data from millions of Facebook accounts was filed last Friday by Facebook, The Record reports. The Ukrainian is said to have collected data from more than 178 million Facebook accounts between January 2018 and September 2019 and sold them on an illegal marketplace.


Facebook alleges that Ukrainian programmer Alexandrovich Solonchenko allegedly abused the Facebook Messenger service called Contact Importer. Using this feature, users can synchronize their telephone address book. This feature also allows users to see which contacts have a Facebook account. In September 2019, Facebook removed this feature after discovering it could be abused.

Solonchenko is said to have used automated software between January 2019 and September 2019 to copy and store phone numbers of Facebook users, among other things. This computer technique in which software is used to collect data from the internet is also called scraping or scraping. Scraping is not allowed on Facebook.

Illegal marketplace

Most of the data came from users in the United States. Solonchenko is said to have sold the collected data on Raidforum, a notorious cybercrime forum and also a marketplace for stolen data.

The Ukrainian also used his username and contact details for the illegal marketplace for accounts on various job boards. As a result, Facebook tracked down the culprit. According to Facebook, Solonchenko has also scraped data from other companies. He is said to have collected data from a large Ukrainian bank.

Facebook has disabled Solonchenko’s Facebook and Instagram account and blocked him from accessing it. The tech giant wants to achieve with the lawsuit that the programmer stops selling public data. Facebook is also demanding compensation. The amount is unknown.

Industry problem

In April 2021, Facebook also had to deal with a Scraping incident. Then the personal data of half a billion Facebook users were on the street. The data was then offered to a hacker forum on the dark web. Facebook already labelled scraping as a “sector problem” back then. The social network already indicated that it was counting on more such incidents. The phenomenon of scraping should receive more attention, according to Facebook.

In April 2020, there was a similar data breach at LinkedIn in which the data of 700 million LinkedIn users was collected via scraping. This data was also posted on a popular hacker forum on the dark web.

The datasets collected using scraping can cause a lot of trouble if the data falls into the wrong hands. For example, the data can be misused for phishing and identity fraud.

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