As Facebook Faces Security Problem, It Becomes Ultimate Hack -- Update

In light of a “malicious external attack,” New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) says its has been offline since 3:30 p.m. EST. At this point, the site has been down for 90 minutes.

The editors have decided to republish this story from August 19:

According to a programmer who tracks Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), one of its major features has been hacked. Khalil Shreateh writes that:

Days ago i discovered a serious facebook vulnerability that allows a facebook user to post to all facebook users timeline even they are not in his friend list .

The timeline is among the most important features for Facebook users.

Khalil apparently even posted a description of the problem on founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page.

The news is a reminder of which websites have to be included on the ultimate hack list for malicious programmers. A recent attack on the Outbrain links at Time Warner Inc.’s (NYSE: TWX) Time magazine, the company’s CNN site and the flagship of the Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) by the Syrian Electronic Army is a reminder that a group that is unlikely to be among the world’s most skilled hackers can breach sites that likely have sophisticated protection.

A “takedown” of Facebook would cripple what is usually considered one of the most widely used sites on the Web, although Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) often vies for that title. Facebook has well over a billion users. It is estimated that Facebook has more than 200,000 servers in data centers spread across the world. Such a system cannot possibly have security protection that will fend off the most skilled programmers indefinitely. If these programmers can breach U.S. government sites and those of major defense contractors, they must be ahead of the ability of software companies that build walls to protect these same sites.

Depending on what research is used, including data from Facebook itself, tens upon tens of millions of people use Facebook each day. A relatively high number of those people spend an hour or more per day on the social network. A major hack of Facebook would crash a system that may be among the largest communications tools in the world.

A hack of Facebook may not be equivalent to one of the Department of Defense. However, a breach in the social network’s collection of users’ data and identities could set back social network use by years, as well as make the public wary of giving out any personal data at all online.

Someone, or someones, sometime soon will make a major hack to Facebook. It is the Holy Grail of hacks, which makes it irresistible.

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.