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Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Facebook disclosed last Friday that 50 million accounts had been breached, and forcibly logged out 90 million affected users. It appears the hackers could have accessed sensitive profile information, purchase histories and private messages. Most disturbingly, since Facebook logins can be used on other sites, companies using that Facebook Connect feature are now rushing to figure out whether their sites were breached.

Why it matters: Single-sign-on login systems do not make a hack more likely. But they do affect what a hacker can access from inside a system. While Facebook reports there is no evidence third-party apps were accessed, this incident should cause consumers to re-evaluate whether to link accounts in the first place.

Single-sign-on systems allow hackers to get more information in one sweep. So, for third-party apps that contain sensitive data, it’s important to compartmentalize. If data held on the third-party site — medical records, for example — would be more sensitive if linked to a Facebook account, it should be kept separate. Similarly, if two third-party sites contain data that would be more sensitive if accessed together — say, credit card information and upcoming travel plans — those shouldn’t be linked either.

Yes, but: Facebook Connect–style login systems are still useful where the third-party app does not contain sensitive information. For sites without payment information or personal data, using Facebook Connect is convenient and poses limited risk. Because such systems can be easier to reset, they also can prevent hackers’ long-term access.

The bottom line: Even the companies best at protecting consumer data will not get it right all the time. All it takes is a handful of flaws — in this case, three — for a hacker to enter a system. Consumers need to be wary of linking information that collectively make them more vulnerable. Information that must be kept private is best left offline.

Betsy Cooper is joining the Aspen Institute's Technology and Cybersecurity Program this month as policy director. She is also a senior advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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