Attacks, survey scams, and hoaxes, including one alleging the social network will shut down in March, running in high gear.

Mathew J. Schwartz, Contributor

January 10, 2011

3 Min Read

Top 20 Apps For Managing Social Media

Top 20 Apps For Managing Social Media

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Top 20 Apps For Managing Social Media

Over the weekend, a Koobface-like attack surfaced on Facebook, infecting users by tricking them into clicking to view a photograph.

"Unlike the majority of Facebook scams we report, this one actively infects your computer with malware instead of simply tricking you into taking surveys and passing on messages to other users," said Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos. Facebook has since removed the malicious application.

From a security and hoax standpoint, it was a busy weekend for the social network, as links to a story also emerged that Facebook would shutter on March 15th, also known as the Ides of March. "The stress of managing this company has ruined my life," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg allegedly said. "I need to put an end to all the madness."

Supposedly, a VP of technical affairs at Facebook, Avrat Humarthi, issued a related warning to Facebook users. "If you ever want to see your pictures again, I recommend you take them off the Internet. You won't be able to get them back once Facebook goes out of business."

Of course, Humarthi is a fictional character and the entire story a hoax, traced to the Weekly World News. Even so, the story spread "like wildfire" on the social network over the weekend, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, who estimates that at least a million users clicked on the story. "Although a hoax is nothing like as bad as a piece of malware worming its way between users and stealing information, it's still a nuisance, clogging up communications, increasing the overall level of spam, and perhaps leading people to make decisions for the wrong reasons," he said.

Another outbreak of mass gullibility also affected Facebook users over the weekend, as scammers attempted to lure people into viewing a video alleging that the killer of hip-hop star Tupac Shakur was Suge Knight, the owner of Tupac Shakur's record label, Death Row Records. To get to the news, however, readers needed to "complete a 30-second test below to prove you are human."

Cluley said that "this is where the scammers make their money. Every time someone fills in an online survey, they make a little bit of commission. If they can find an attractive enough lure -- like a video 'proving' who killed Tupac Shakur -- they can potentially bring lots of people to the surveys."

Indeed, at least 125,000 people had clicked on fake links relating to the bogus news, which was being circulated by 10 different rogue applications. Cluley said the attack is also being distributed via Twitter posts with direct links to the Facebook applications. Any users that authorized the rogue application would then see the attack posted to their Facebook wall, perpetuating the scam.


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About the Author(s)

Mathew J. Schwartz


Mathew Schwartz served as the InformationWeek information security reporter from 2010 until mid-2014.

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