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Friendship Inquiries Hacker Alert Hoax

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on 9th November 2010

Outline:
Alert posted on Facebook and other networks warns users not to accept friendship inquiries from Roland Dreyer, Matthias Damberger, Mario Sommer, Fabian Berneder or Frank Becker because they are hackers intent on destroying your hard disk.


Brief Analysis:
The claims in the warning are false. You cannot allow hackers access to your computer just by accepting a social network friend request. This “alert” is just one more in a long line of absurd “hacker warning” hoaxes that use different names for the supposed hackers. These warnings are pointless and reposting them will help no one.

Example:
REPOST

– ALERT!!! DO NOT ACCEPT ANY FRIENDSHIP INQUIRIES FROM: ROLAND DREYER, MATTHIAS DAMBERGER, MARIO SOMMER, FABIAN BERNEDER OR FRANK BECKER !!!!! THESE ARE HACKERS!!!!! THEY CAN DESTROY THE HARD DISK!!!!!!… PLEASE, COPY TEXT ON YOUR BULLETIN BOARD!!! SO THAT YOUR FRIENDS ARE PROTECTED



Detailed Analysis:
According to this “alert” message, which is circulating rapidly around Facebook and other social networks and message boards, hackers named Roland Dreyer, Matthias Damberger, Mario Sommer, Fabian Berneder and Frank Becker are trying to gain access to computers by sending people “friendship inquiries”. The warning suggests, that just by accepting a friend request from one of these people, you will allow them to take control of your computer after which they will destroy your hard disk. The post asks users to repost the information so that others may be warned about this supposed hacker threat.

However, the claims in the message are nonsense and the “alert” should not be taken seriously. In fact, the warning is just one more in a long line of very similar – and equally false – hacker hoaxes that have circulated in various forms for several years. From time to time, some prankster will substitute a new name or set of names for the supposed hackers before relaunching the altered hoax to the online community. These pranksters, either out of deliberate malice or a misguided attempt to play a practical joke, often use the names of real individuals. Thus, spreading such rumours may have a detrimental impact on the reputations of innocent people.

In 2009, a similar hoax warned users not to accept friend requests from supposed hackers named Christopher or Jessica Davies:

DO NOT ACCEPT A FRIEND REQUEST FROM CHRISTOPHER DAVIES OR JESSICA DAVIES, THEY ARE HACKERS !!!! PLEASE TELL EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST BECAUSE IF SOMEONE ON YOUR LIST ADDS THEM THEY WILL BE ON YOUR LIST TOO….HE WILL FIGURE OUT YOUR COMPUTER IP AND ADDRESS. SO PLEASE COPY N PASTE THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYONE, BECAUSE IF HE HACKS THEM, HE HACKS YOU.TOO!

Another 2009 incarnation warned of the dangers of accepting one Christopher Butterfield as an online friend:

DO NOT ACCEPT a friend request from a CHRISTOPHER BUTTERFIELD he is a hacker. Tell everyone on your list because if somebody on your list adds him u get him on your list too and he’ll figure out ur computer’s ID and address, so copy and paste this message to everyone even if u don’t care for them cause if he hacks their email he hacks your mail too! SEND TO ALL FRIENDS. Copy and paste to ur page…

And yet another variant that has circulated continually for more than two years breathlessly warns users to watch out for a hacker named Simon Ashton:

IF THIS PERSON CALLED SIMON ASHTON (SIMON_25_@HOTMAIL.CO.UK) CONTACTS YOU THROUGH EMAIL DONT ACCEPT HIM. DELETE HIM BECAUSE HE IS A HACKER!! TELL EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST BECAUSE IF SOMEBODY ON YOUR LIST ADDS HIM THEN YOU WILL GET HIM ON YOUR LIST. HE WILL FIGURE OUT YOUR ID COMPUTER ADDRESS, SO COPY AND PASTE THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYONE AND FAST BECAUSE IF HE HACKS THEIR EMAIL HE HACKS YOUR MAIL TOO!!!!!..

The supposed hacking methods described in these hoax warnings are technically impossible. The messages suggest that just accepting a person as a “friend” on your contact list will give the hacker access to your computer. This is total nonsense. Hackers certainly do use a range of tactics to trick users into relinquishing access to their computers. Hackers might, for example, trick victims into installing trojan software that allows a computer to be controlled remotely. Or they might use a phishing attack to trick a victim into sending them personal information such as usernames and passwords, which would, of course, allow hackers to access their victim’s account. However, even the smartest hacker will not be able to hack your computer just by being added to your contact list. For a hacking attempt to be successful, some sort of file transfer or exchange of information must take place.

Moreover, this version of the hoax suggests that these hackers are intent on gaining access to your computer so that they can destroy its hard drive. However, generally speaking, hackers want to gain control of computers so that they can steal information and/or use the compromised computers for further nefarious activities. Thus, such hackers have no reason or desire to render the hacked computer unusable by destroying its hard drive. And, even if a hacker does gain remote control of a computer’s software, there is no way that he or could physically destroy or damage the computer’s hard drive or other hardware components even if he wanted to.

These absurd hacker hoaxes are related to a series of earlier hoax warnings that claimed that malicious individuals were trying to spread a virus by adding people to their MSN Messenger contact list.

Reposting such hoaxes serves no worthwhile purpose. Spreading false and inaccurate information about computer security issues is counterproductive. If you receive this hacker hoax or one of its many variants, please do not repost it. And please take a minute to let the person who posted it to you know that the claims in the “warning” are false.


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Brett Christensen