August 28, 2008

Hackers Take Aim at Users of Facebook

By Miguel Helft

On the Internet, popularity often draws the attention of hackers. So it is not surprising that Facebook has become the target of a spate of attacks, just as the membership on the site has swelled to about 100 million active users worldwide.

In recent days, many Facebook users have seen a sharp increase in spam, some of it pretty racy. Over the weekend, several Facebook users contacted this newspaper saying that their accounts appeared to have been hijacked, and some said their accounts had been deactivated.

Facebook acknowledges that it has been under attack but suggested the problems were largely under control. "Over the past few days, we have received reports from users of spam and phishing attacks," the company said in a statement. "We have also detected and contained a worm. 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."

Some of the attacks were linked to Koobface, an Internet worm that began targeting Facebook and MySpace users in late July. Since then, the Internet security firm Kaspersky Lab has identified about 27 variants of Koobface.

"It is very similar to a lot of the old worms," said David Emm, a senior technology consultant at Kaspersky.

Emm said Koobface, like many other viruses and worms, relies on what is known as "social engineering" techniques, which attempt to trick people into performing actions that will expose them unwittingly to a virus.

The technique may prove particularly effective on social networks, he said.

"If you receive messages from a friend on a social network, you are not expecting them to be a vehicle to carry a worm or Trojan horse," Emm said.

In the wake of Koobface, that may change.

In the meantime, Facebook recommends that concerned users check out its new security page. The company has also taken one spammer to court.

Originally published by The New York Times Media Group.

(c) 2008 International Herald Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.