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Facebook will now alert you if your account is targeted by ‘state-sponsored actors’

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While the chances of nation-state agents breaking into your Facebook account must surely be pretty slim, the social networking giant has nevertheless put in place measures that mean you’ll be the first to know should it uncover any such nefarious behavior.

The company said over the weekend that while it’s constantly monitoring its approximately 1.5 billion active accounts for malicious activity and taking steps to secure affected accounts, it’s decided to offer an additional warning if it suspects an attack may be government-sponsored.

“We do this because these types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts,” Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, explained in a post.

Stamos included in his post an example of how such a notification might look. The message (below), which is likely to have alarmed recipients wondering if they unknowingly did something unspeakably offensive during their last overseas vacation, says, “We believe your Facebook account and your other online accounts may be the target of attacks from state-sponsored actors.” It goes on to suggest how a user can protect their account, and also recommends taking action to secure other online accounts in case undercover hackers have been sniffing around those, too.

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Facebook said its new warning notification “will assist those people in need of protection, and we will continue to improve our ability to prevent and detect attacks of all kinds against people on Facebook.”

Stamos was keen to point out that the notification is not related to any compromise of Facebook’s platform or systems, but instead “may indicate that your computer or mobile device has been infected with malware. Ideally, people who see this message should take care to rebuild or replace these systems if possible.”

Facebook’s new, more specific, notification regarding the protection of accounts from state-sponsored hackers comes amid ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China over alleged cyberattacks between the two nations. The matter was raised during a recent visit to the U.S. by Chinese president Xi Jinping, who, together with President Obama, made assurances that the two countries would not engage in economic espionage in cyberspace.

Obama said during the Chinese leader’s visit that the pair had managed to reach “a common understanding on the way forward,” but added that there was still more to be done.

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