Message circulating on Facebook warns that users should delete a Facebook application labelled “Unnamed app” because it is an “internal spybot” that can make Facebook runs more slowly than usual.
The warning is invalid and should be ignored. Although an application titled “Unnamed app” has indeed appeared in the application settings of many Facebook users, it is NOT a spybot. The app is intended to control the use of Facebook boxes and is in no way malicious. There is no need to delete it. In fact, deleting it may cause unintended problems. The app is only visible and deletable due to a bug in the Facebook system.
In late January 2010, this warning began moving rapidly around social networking website, Facebook. The message warns users to find and delete a Facebook application simply titled “Unnamed app” because it is an internal spybot that can cause Facebook to run more slowly than usual. The message includes instructions for finding and deleting the app.
An application very unhelpfully labelled “Unnamed app” has indeed appeared in the application settings dialogue of many Facebook users. However, the app is not a spybot or in any other way malicious and deleting it is unnecessary. Apparently, the app is not normally visible to users but has been displayed in many Facebook profiles due to an unfortunate bug in the Facebook system itself. The app is part of an internal system used to control the content of Facebook Boxes that users may wish to display on their profiles.
A posting about the app on the Facebook Help Center page notes:
It can hold Boxes from any app that supports it (such as Photos, various games, books, etc.) that you don’t want on your main profile page. It’s a system tab and isn’t supposed to be deletable. They must have made it visible accidentally (Facebook bug), and then someone started a rumor to make people delete it, partially breaking their profile.
Sophos Senior Technology Consultant Graham Cluley concurs, noting in a blog posting:
Sure enough, when I went to look on a Facebook account I found an “Unnamed app”:
However, I’m not seeing any evidence that the application is malicious. Indeed, it seems to me that the only sin it may have committed might be to have been given a daft unhelpful name. According to Facebook itself, it appears to be a buggy presentation of the boxes tab that appears on users’ Facebook profiles.
And, a post on the Facebook “About” page notes:
Many people have posted about the appearance of an application listed as “Unnamed App” in their Applications Settings. This was a bug, which we now have fixed. It did not damage any accounts.
Thus, the information in the warning message is invalid and should not be acted upon. The app is not malicious and there is no credible evidence to suggest that deleting it will make Facebook run faster. Since the problem has now been rectified, the app should no longer be visible.
Unfortunately, deleting “Unnamed app” may have caused unintended problems for users. In spite of Facebook’s assurance that the bug “did not damage any accounts”, many Facebook users have reported that all of their Boxes have disappeared after deleting the app and they were having problems recovering them.
Moreover, online criminals have used this redundant “Unnamed app” warning to further their own nefarious ends. Hackers and scammers have exploited the situation by stuffing malicious websites with keywords related to the supposed “Unnamed app” security warning. Concerned users who search on the Internet for more information about the supposed threat may inadvertently arrive at bogus websites that contain trojans or other malware.
Although Facebook is an outstanding communication tool it has also become a very powerful vector for the rapid spread of misinformation, half-truths and outright nonsense. If you receive a warning about a possible computer security threat via Facebook or email, it is important that you take a few minutes to verify its claims before taking action, especially if it involves deleting an application or file.
Such hoaxes have caused problems for computer users in the past. Several years ago the infamous Teddy Bear virus hoax tricked many users into deleting a perfectly legitimate system file from their computers. And an even earlier virus hoax fooled users into removing a completely harmless Windows system file named Sulfnbk.exe.