A virus dubbed as “Koobface” is infiltrating Facebook’s 120 million users by using the social network’s messaging system to infect PCs, and get credit card numbers.
This is the most recent attempt of hackers looking to take advantage of users on social network sites.
“A few other viruses have tried to use Facebook in similar ways to propagate themselves,” Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said in an e-mail. He said a “very small percentage of users” had been affected by these viruses
“It is on the rise, relative to other threats like e-mails,” said Craig Schmugar, a researcher with McAfee Inc.
The way Koobface works is by sending notes to friends of someone whose PC has been infected. The messages include a subject header of, “You look just awesome in this new movie,” which directs the recipient to a website where they are asked to download what it claims is an update of Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash player.
Once the software is downloaded, the virus infiltrates their computer, which takes the user to contaminated sites when they try to use search engines.
On Wednesday, McAfee warned that its researchers had discovered that Koobface was making the rounds on Facebook.
Chris Boyd, a researcher with FaceTime Security Labs, said, Facebook requires senders of messages within the network to be members and hides users’ data from people who do not have accounts. Because of that, users tend to be far less suspicious of messages they receive in the network.
“People tend to let their guard down. They think you’ve got to log in with an account, so there is no way that worms and other viruses could infect them,” Boyd said.
According to the company spokeswoman, social networking MySpace, owned by News Corp., was hit by a version of Koobface in August and used security technology to eradicate it. The virus has not cropped up since.
Facebook has warned its users not to open the contaminated email and has also posted directions on how to clean infected computers.
Richard Larmer, chief executive of RLM Public Relations in New York, said he threw out his PC after it became infected by Koobface, which downloaded malicious software onto his PC. “It was really bad. It destroyed my computer,” he said.
McAfee has not yet figured out the identity of the perpetrators behind the Koobface virus.
“The people behind it are updating it, refining it, adding new functionalities,” said McAfee’s Schmugar.
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