Facebook users hit by wave of viral attacks

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The BBC is reporting that Facebook has been targeted by malicious hackers seeking to steal valuable data from members.

The social network site has been hit by five separate security problems in the last seven days, say security experts.

By creating fake messages padded with details of Facebook members the thieves are capitalising on the trust and social links that drive the network.

Security firms warn that the popularity of social networking sites makes them a tempting target for hi-tech thieves.

Security security advisor at Trend Micro, Rick Ferguson commented that:

Facebook had been hit by four malicious applications as well as a new variant of the Koobface virus that first targeted members of the social site in December 2008.

The rogue applications on Facebook all try to steal saleable information from the profiles of those who open it up, said Mr Ferguson.

One malicious application tried to trick people into adding it by claiming that their friends were having trouble looking at their profile. If the application is added it spams itself to every Facebook friend that a member of the site has.

Ferguson said that the way Facebook is built can make it tricky for members to spot malicious or rogue applications.

A lot of security software looks for malicious activity on a user's own machine, he said. By contrast, when Facebook members add an application it is servers operated by the social site that link to the third-party computers hosting that program.

Ferguson also commented saying he is surprised that is has taken so long for social sites to be targeting by these forms of attack, which seems a little inaccurate to us as MySpace has been previously targeted as far back as 2006 and LiveJournal was also reported to install Malware via Adverts in June 2006.

Unfortunately the things we praise most about the Internet are also the things that are its major flaw. It is an unlimited source of information where anyone can access or distribute data, so for while websites like Wikipedia  provide an easily accessible source of information that was not around 20 years ago there are other sites or individuals wishing to exploit the openness of information. Our recommendation is to be wary of pretty much everything that you do not know is trustworthy. Make sure you have an good anti-virus installed (I use Kaspersky) and ideally use Firefox with add-ons such as NoScript to avoid running potentially dangerous scripts

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