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Facebook wants users' cell numbers in bid to bolster security

Social network begins schooling users on how to protect accounts, including asking for cell numbers, presumably so they can get replacement passwords in the event of a security breach.

In the wake of a rash of password leaks, Facebook wants to educate its members about how to make their accounts more secure and is asking for users' cell phone numbers as part of that effort.

The social network has begun adding a message at the top of every member's news feed that suggests they "Stay in control of your account by following these simple security tips." The message includes a link to Facebook's security page, where users are tutored on how to identify a scam and choose a unique password, and are asked to provide a cell phone number where replacement passwords can be sent.

Possession of users' cell phone numbers could allow Facebook to immediately wipe out passwords and send users new ones via text message, avoiding the delay inherent in waiting for users to follow e-mailed warnings to reset their passwords.

While the message is expected to be rolled out to all desktop users during the next couple of days, Facebook had planned the initiative before recent high-profile password leaks at LinkedIn and eHarmony, the social network told TechCrunch's Josh Constine, who first reported on the message's appearance.

LinkedIn confirmed last week that some passwords on a list of nearly 6.5 million stolen, hashed passwords belong to its members, but did not say how its site was compromised. On the same day, dating site eHarmony confirmed that passwords used by its members had been compromised.

Facebook's security page. Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET