Facebook Wasn’t Hacked

Much kerfuffle because some Facebook employees’ laptops picked up a virus. Facebook have posted about it and it’s a pretty straightforward tale of some laptops picking up a virus, and the company’s IT infrastructure detecting it, and making sure it didn’t do any harm. The only real news here is that, with the in-house expertise Facebook has, they could do a much more thorough analysis of the problem than most people’s employers could ever manage, and share that knowledge with the world.

But of course this is Facebook, and Facebook-the-company exists to operate Facebook-the-website, so suddenly journalists’ eyes light up with the thought of the headline: “Facebook Hacked!”

As this rather boring incident happened last month, the journalists also see the opportunity to suggest that Facebook is somehow deceiving its users by this delay in disclosure, and that all the Important Private Data of those users (which they posted on Facebook, but whatever) is somehow at risk.

This story is about as interesting as a bank employee’s laptop getting a virus, which doesn’t cause any risk to the bank’s customers’ money; or a journalist’s computer getting a virus, which doesn’t cause any risk to the people who read his stories on the newspaper’s website.

Facebook wasn’t hacked. Any reports you read saying “Facebook Hacked!” are bullshit. Somebody’s laptop got a virus. A few other people’s laptops in the same company got the virus. That’s what viruses do, and it happens every day at thousands of companies.

The fact that the company happened to be called “Facebook” doesn’t mean “Facebook got hacked”; it means you get to hear about it. You don’t get to hear about it when it happens at your bank, or the Wall Street Journal, or the Guardian, or the New York Times. It happens at those places more often than it does at Facebook, but you’re never told about that. You’re told about it when it happens at Facebook because the journalists know that putting the words “Facebook” and “Hacked” in the same headline has a Pavlovian effect on the public which sells newspapers, or at least page views, and makes their employers money.

I say again: Facebook wasn’t hacked. Some people who work there got a virus on their laptops. That’s all. It’s not news.

If it is news, we should be told every time it happens to somebody who works for a news organisation. After all, we rely on these people for accurate information much more than we do on Facebook. (Well, I do. YMMV.)