Facebook suffers spate of online security attacksHackers target internet users' Facebook profiles

03 March 2009

Facebook, the online social networking site, has been the victim of five separate security problems over the last week, including a virus and four malicious applications, according to a BBC news channel article.

The BBC article outlines online security experts' concern that the popularity of online social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace makes them a tempting target for hackers looking to steal site users' personal information. 

Rogue application invites

The malicious applications often work by posing as invites from friends asking Facebook users to sign up to an application. An example given is of an attempt to trick Facebook users by claiming that their friends were having trouble looking at their profile, and that they needed to add the application to solve the problem. 

If the application is added it spams itself to every Facebook friend that a member of the site has in an attempt to steal saleable information from the profiles of those who open it up. 

The BBC report gives comments from online security expert Rik Ferguson, senior security advisor at online security retailer Trend Micro. Mr Ferguson said that the way that Facebook is built can make it tricky for members to spot malicious or rogue applications, and that it was time for Facebook to review its policy of approving applications. Currently, it only vets them after they are offered to members and have been reported as causing problems.

Koobface virus

Facebook users have also been targeted in the last few days by a computer virus known as the Koobface virus, which originally hit MySpace and Facebook users in December 2008. 

The latest version of the Koobface computer virus sends a Facebook message that appears to be from a friend to a Facebook user's profile. The message directs them to visit a webpage appearing to be on the YouTube website, where they are asked to download a piece of software or play a video. 

The apparent YouTube web page is fake. If online users play the video or download the software, their computer becomes infected with a computer virus which searches for cookies on the victim's computer and uses the details it finds to enter other social networks the user is signed up to. The virus then searches for an infected computer user’s friends, who are then sent messages containing a link where a copy of the virus is downloaded.

Online virus protection

On its online security page, Facebook gives advice on what to do if you should become infected with a virus. Facebook warns that people should never click on links in messages that look suspicious, even if they appear to be from friends, and advises Facebook users to immediately run a virus scan using antivirus software if they suspect they are infected with an online virus. 

With social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo becoming ever more popular, this kind of attack highlights how important it is to stay vigilant in order to protect your online privacy and stay safe from viruses and other online nasties. 

The Which? Online website also has Which? reviews of the latest security software, including Which? Best Buys as well as completely free online security software. Our experts have tested the latest online security products against real viruses, for ease of use, anti-virus and spyware blockers and spyware removal, anti-spam and PC performance, to help you surf safely without slowing things down.

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