Message warns that bogus Facebook notifications claiming that you have been reported by a friend for being offensive or for terms of service violations link to a computer virus.
The warning was valid but is now outdated. The warning is based on a genuine security threat that targeted Facebook users in early 2009. At that time, a rogue Facebook application was sending bogus terms of service violation messages to Facebook users. Clicking a link in the messages launched the application which then sent the same message to all of the user’s Facebook friends. However, the rogue application was shut down soon after its launch and there are no credible reports that indicate that it has been reactivated. Even so, such tactics are often reused by criminals and Facebook users should certainly watch out for bogus notification messages.
This message, which is circulating rapidly around social networking website, Facebook, warns Facebook users to look out for fake notification messages that claim that a friend has reported them for being offensive or for being in violation of terms of service. According to the message, clicking a link in the notification message will install a virus on the user’s computer.
While the warning contains elements of truth, the particular threat described was shut down in early 2009 and there are no credible reports that indicate that it is has been reactivated.
In early 2009, a rogue Facebook application began spreading across the network via a ruse like the one described in the above warning. Facebook users began receiving bogus notifications that claimed a Facebook friend had reported them for a terms of service violation. A link in this bogus notification message opened a Facebook application entitled “facebook — closing down!!!”. If installed, this application then sent out more bogus terms of service violation messages to the user’s friends. According to a February 2009 TrendMicro blog post, the rogue application may have also harvested the user’s personal information. Via this method, the application spread rapidly through the Facebook community. However, this rogue application was only active for a short time because it was removed from Facebook soon after its launch.
Thus, the continued circulation of this particular warning message is no longer necessary.
That said, Facebook users should certainly remain vigilant regarding such attacks. Facebook has increasingly become a vector for cybercriminal schemes of this nature. In 2009, phishing scammers used fake password reset messages to steal account information from Facebook users. In another recent attack, users were tricked into joining a bogus Facebook group that supposedly protested against a proposed monthly charge for Facebook access. However, the group contained links to a website that harboured malware and the supposed monthly charge was simply the bait used to entice potential victims into clicking these links. Criminals have also used a variety of bogus Facebook messages such as video links that appear to have originated from a friend’s Facebook profile to spread variants of the Koobface worm.
Such attacks are ongoing and criminals are likely to repeat methods that they have used successfully in the past. Facebook users should be very cautious of following links in messages even if they appear to originate from trusted friends or are seemingly official network notifications. It is certainly possible that criminals might again employ tactics such as fake terms of service notifications to trick users into installing malware or rogue applications. Thus, even though the specific threat described in the above warning message has now passed, Facebook users should nevertheless be very cautious of any messages that claim that they have been reported for violations or offensive behaviour.