Facebook attack claimed by group identified as members of Anonymous

Hackers claiming to be part of the online group Anonymous threatened to block access to Facebook just before the Web site went down in several countries Thursday and Friday.

A 15-minute video posted to the Web site AnonNews called for the attack, code-named ”Operation Face Flood.” Members identified themselves as part of Anonymous and said they did not like the way Facebook makes money from users’ data. They also accused the site of removing Facebook pages set up by Anonymous.

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Disruptions occurred in Stockholm, Shanghai, Copenhagen, Oslo, Lisbon, San Francisco and Moscow, the tech outlet PC World reported. Facebook acknowledged that some users had trouble accessing the Web site but it did not mention the connection to Anonymous.

“Yesterday some users briefly experienced issues loading the site,” Facebook said in a statement. “The issues have since been resolved and everyone should now have access to Facebook. We apologize for any inconvenience.” The company said the issues were not the result of a denial-of-service attack.

It’s not certain what led to Facebook’s disruption, nor is it clear whether the move was endorsed by Anonymous, which is a loose collection of hackers with no central authority or spokesperson.

The situation highlighted an ongoing disagreement within the Anonymous community about whether Facebook should be a target. Some members have threatened to take down Facebook, but so far have had little or no success. Others within the group have argued that the social network is a valuable tool for hackers and dissidents.

YourAnonNews, a separate group from AnonNews but also affiliated with Anonymous, at first announced that Facebook had been taken down.

But later on Friday, it tweeted: “Anonymous would never attack Facebook, we have said this many times. Why would we attack a tool that many anons use to spread info?”

“There are different groups within Anonymous that have different opinions about Facebook,” said Rob Rachwald, director of security strategy at the cybersecurity firm Imperva. “If you look at YouTube Anonymous videos, some say ‘Facebook is great because it allows families to connect, and therefore we should not attack it.’ Others say the privacy policies are awful.”

Rachwald said that if the disruption of Facebook was an attack, it was not a very complicated one.

“It was nothing elegant and it required no sophistication,” he said. “What that tells me is that they’ve gathered a group of people frustrated with the privacy policy . . . but weren’t able to gather people who would want to spend the time to do something that would seriously embarrass the company.”

The company, which had a market value of $104 billion when it debuted, is worth $60 billion after a steady decline in stock price.

On paper, the value of the shares held by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg have dropped from $19.5 billion on the day of the stock’s debut to about $13 billion on Friday.

The company also announced Friday that its users will have one week to vote on changes to the network’s data use policies. The polling, which will end Friday,governs matters such as how the site will use personal data and how long Facebook may keep that information.

If more than 30 percent of all active registered Facebook users vote, the results will be binding; if fewer users vote, they will be advisory, according to a blog post from Elliot Schrage, the network’s vice president for communications, public policy and marketing.

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