The end of spam-free Facebook?

2008-08-29 00:00

Is this the end of spam-free Facebook? It would appear so, especially after this week, which saw Internet hackers and spammers thumping Facebook as badly as Kevin Pietersen’s men thumped the Proteas this week.

The Fortinet Global Security Research Team has sent warnings out about hijacked Facebook accounts posting deceptive messages on people’s “walls”. This feature on Facebook “is currently being exploited by spammers to post deceptive messages, linking to typical spam sites such as online ‘pharmacies’”, the team says.

Facebook users from all over the world have been informing the web utility site of spam attacks this week. The Koobface worm has been the main cause of the attacks, which has been affecting both Facebook and MySpace since July.

Facebook’s director of communications, Brandee Barker, told the Washington Post that they have received reports from users of spam and phishing attacks. “We have also detected and contained a worm,” said Barker. “We are investigating every report, removing false content, blocking bogus links and addressing the concerns of our users. These efforts have limited the affected users to a small percentage of those on Facebook.

“We will continue to fight to keep Facebook safe, but also ask that users help us,” said Barker.

Hackers are also targeting Facebook with a phishing scam that harvests users’ login details, says Wired’s Ryan Singel. “A lot of phishing is moving out of financial services and going to online websites that have not installed stronger authentication …” RSA’s Identity and Access Assurance Group’s Marc Gaffan told Wired.

The question now is can Mark Zuckerberg’s team take the loss as a learning measure and stop spam from destroying the one website where people felt safe? Unfortunately, Graeme Smith probably has a better chance of recovering from injury and resurrecting the Protea’s ODI series with England.

Online embarrassment: Durban woman hacked

Durban resident Trish Smith had to apologise to 339 angry friends this week after her account was hacked into and a spam message was sent from her account to all her friends.

What made the message so damaging was the authenticity of the voice, making her friends think she had completely lost the plot: “Okay pay close attention [the full name of her friend] what I am about to tell you must stay on the low down. [Random name] has been taking these cock pills now for a while and I found two bottles in his glove compartment. He made me promise that I would not tell anyone that he is on them, cause they changed his whole size and life.” It then says what website the person found them on and that they are “guaranteed to work”.

Smith’s boyfriend, Claude Conradie, told her to check her wall. “I don’t have a connection at work so I went to an Internet café to see what he was talking about,” she says. “I was horrified when I saw it and quickly updated my status and posted a wall message saying it was not my writing.”

Smith said the rest of the week was an ordeal because her friends were either angry with her or teased her for “being Durban’s new drug dealer”. One friend wrote: “Trishie why are you advertising on my wall???? And for Viagra??!! Not cool young lady!” Others were more helpful: “HaHaHa Trish darling, someone’s obviously hacked in to your account! Same thing happened to a friend of mine … she ended up sending everyone messages on how to obtain weed. Just change your password and don’t accept friend invites from people you don’t know!”

“I felt so violated,” she says. “I am very angry with Facebook for letting this happen.”

She says her password wasn’t that weak. “I had a two word password … I have now changed it into a more complicated one, but I just don’t understand how they got my password. No one knows my password.”

Smith is one of many people who has experienced these spam attacks. If you see a message that looks fake, make sure you don’t click on the link and please spare the real victim any added trauma.

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