This story was first published on March 14, 2011
According to a breathless message that is currently rocketing around Facebook and Twitter, users should not accept friend requests from a person called Bobby Roberts because he is a hacker. The warning claims that this supposed hacker is using a fake name and that just accepting this name will “destroy everything.”
The claims in the message are utter nonsense. You cannot get hacked just by accepting someone’s friend request. A name alone certainly cannot damage or destroy your computer. A name, even a “fake” one used by a skilled hacker, cannot actually do anything to your computer. Before a hacker can take control of your computer, he must use some method to gain access to it. Internet criminals can and do use a range of tactics to trick users into relinquishing access to their computers. They might 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 allow hackers to access their victim’s account. However, even the smartest criminal will not be able to hack your computer just by being added to your contact list or by using a specific name. For a hacking attempt to be successful, some sort of file transfer or exchange of information must take place.
This warning is actually just one more in a long line of very similar hoaxes. From time to time, some prankster will substitute a new name for the supposed hacker, alter a few details, and launch the pointless hoax anew. All such hoaxes claim that the simple act of accepting someone as a friend on your social network will give a sinister hacker access to your computer. All such claims are untrue.
Sending on these warnings will help no one. Such hoaxes clutter online communities with false and useless information, and let’s face it, networks like Facebook already have enough of that to last a lifetime. These hoaxes can also unfairly tarnish the reputations of innocent users. “Bobby Roberts” is not an uncommon name. On Facebook alone, there are dozens of users with that name. If you receive one of these false hacker warnings, please do not pass it on to others. And please take a moment to let the sender know that the message is a hoax.
An example of the hoax:
***WARNING!!!! DO NOT ACCEPT FRIEND REQUESTS FROM ~~~ BOBBY ROBERTS ~~~ Profile picture is four colored pictures ~~ A hacker and fake name !!!! the name will DESTROY EVERYTHING!!! PLEASE… COPY THIS TEXT ON YOUR STATUS SO THAT YOUR FRIENDS ARE WARNED************* PASS THIS ALONG A.S.A.P..