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While this might sound reminiscent of the recent Facebook hack that compromised the personal data of some 30 million users that also happened last month, this attack is different than - and completely unrelated to - that previous attack. The group posted a sample of its purported 120 million account haul online and according to cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows, more than 81,000 of those shared profiles contained private messages.

Facebook said the messages were not obtained through a breach in its security, but rather a dodgy browser extension.

And the data had probably been obtained through malicious browser extensions. The social network has yet to name and shame the extensions believed to be responsible for the breach in security, but explained that one in particular quietly monitored Facebook use and inconspicuously sent the personal data.

"We have contacted browser makers to ensure that known malicious extensions are no longer available to download in their stores and to share information that could help identify additional extensions that may be related", Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of product management, said in an emailed statement.

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Several users whose messages were published confirmed to the BBC that the messages were legitimate, although basic data from the 176,000 accounts could feasibly have been acquired without hacking the accounts.

Numerous users affected are reportedly based in the Ukraine and Russian Federation, although there were users affected in many other countries including the United States, the UK and Brazil. The messages included holiday pictures, complaints about a son-in-law, and an "intimate" conversation between two lovers.

Personal shopping assistants, bookmarking applications and even mini-puzzle games are all on offer from various browsers such as Chrome, Opera and Firefox as third-party extensions. Facebook has claimed that the data theft wasn't the company's fault.

The advertiser was asked whether the breached accounts were the same as those involved in either the Cambridge Analytica scandal or the subsequent security breach revealed in September. On multiple occasions, it contacted local authorities to get the site brokering stolen information taken down.


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