Amidst the Tunisian government’s recent efforts to hack into the Facebook pages of political protesters, the social-networking service’s security team went on the offensive and helped guard users’ accounts from being taken over.
In an article in the online version of The Atlantic, author Alexis Madrigal describes the state of mass political turmoil that began in Tunisia in December, culminating in the ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month, and the pivotal role Facebook played.
As violence escalated before the coup, Madrigal said Twitter and Facebook became essential tools for organizing political rallies opposing the presidency of Ben Ali.
In an attempt to block protesters from gaining online momentum – the country's traditional media outlets were heavily censored -- Tunisia’s government attempted to hack the Facebook accounts of dissidents and journalists.
But Facebook’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, didn't stand for that.
Viewing the problem as “very much a black-and-white security issue and less of a political issue,” as he told Madrigal, Sullivan’s team developed a solution that encrypted all Tunisian requests for Facebook access on an https server, which made the requests invulnerable to the keylogging strategy the Tunisian government had been using to steal account information.
Facebook’s security squad also implemented a "roadblock," which asked users who had logged out and then back in while malicious code was present on the site, to identify their friends in photos -- something the authorities could not do.
The security upgrades were rolled out five days after Facebook learned of the attacks.