A security measure put into place by Facebook last month has proven more effective than expected. The New York Times reports that State Department officials were tipped off by Facebook’s new notifications when Iranian hackers compromised their Facebook accounts. The cyberattacks had targeted the email addresses and social media accounts of staffers who focused on Iran and the Middle East.
“It was very carefully designed and showed the degree to which they understood which of our staff was working on Iran issues now that the nuclear deal is done,” one senior government official told the New York Times. “It was subtle.”
Once notified by Facebook, the State Department discovered further cyber espionage and surveillance efforts. Facebook deployed the new alerts, which specifically warn users if their account has fallen prey to a state-sponsored attack, in October.
Left unclear is just how robust the State Department’s own cyber defenses are and how proactive it is in steeling itself against external threats–especially given that this particular attack was detected through a Facebook product designed to protect a corporation’s customers.
An audit of the State Department’s cybersecurity, which wrapped up earlier this month, found fault with the way it protects its information. Though the audit noted that the State Department has made major strides in recent years, the heavily redacted report said its systems are not in compliance with multiple government standards.