This story was first published on May 15, 2014
Circulating social media message warns users not to accept a friend request from a person called ‘Maggie from Sweden’ because she is a hacker. The warning includes a photograph that supposedly depicts the ‘hacker’.
The claims in the message are untrue. It is just one version among a series of hoax messages that warn that simply accepting a friend request can allow a specified criminal to hack the recipient and his or her friends. But, in fact, even the most artful criminals cannot ‘hack’ a computer solely because a user accepts a friend request. For a hacking attempt to be successful, some sort of file transfer or exchange of information must take place. Moreover, the woman whose photograph is included in the message has done nothing wrong. Her photograph was stolen from a personal profile and added to the hoax message. This nasty hoax has caused her distress and damaged her reputation for no good reason. Sharing this bogus warning will help nobody and will further impact on the privacy and reputation of an innocent person.
ALERT!!!!! ALERT!!!!! Don’t accept a friend request from Maggie from Sweden, she is a HACKER. Tell everyone on your list cause if someone on your list adds her then she will be on yours too. She will figure out your computer ID and address, so send this to everyone on your list even if you don’t care for them cause if she hacks them, she hacks YOU too. She is also noted for repeated sexual harassment and indecent private chatting.
[Image of woman removed]
According to this rather breathless ‘alert’ message, people should not accept a friend request from a user called ‘Maggie from Sweden’. It warns that if someone on your contact list adds her as a friend, she will then be on your list as well and can hack you too. And, warns the message, this dreadful hacker also sexually harasses her targets and engages in ‘indecent private chatting’.
The message begs you to alert everyone on your contact list as a means of protecting your friends and yourself from the dastardly Maggie.
But, in fact, the would-be warning is just the latest incarnation in a long, sorry, series of similar alert messages. All claim that the recipient and his or her friends can all get ‘hacked’ even if just one person on the list accepts the specified hacker’s friend request. All are hoaxes and none have any validity whatsoever. Many of the hoax messages are identical except for the name of the alleged hacker. From time to time, some prankster will plug in a new name for the supposed hacker, alter a few details and launch the hoax anew.
Earlier versions travelled mostly via email or instant message services. Later variants are shared via social media.
In truth, even the most skilful hacker cannot take control of your computer using the method outlined in these hoax messages. A name, by itself, cannot do anything to your computer. Before a hacker can hijack your computer, he must employ some viable means of gaining access to it.
Cybercrooks use several 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 criminals to access their victim’s account. However, even the cleverest criminal cannot hack your computer just by being added to a contact list. For a hacking attempt to be successful, some sort of file transfer or exchange of information must take place.
Of course, users should be cautious of accepting friend requests from strangers. Once they are on your friend list, some unscrupulous users may try to involve you in scams or trick you into divulging personal information or downloading malware.Nevertheless, any message that claims that a hacker can hijack your computer just because your or your friends accepted a friend request is very likely to be just one more version of this tired old hoax. Sharing such bogus warnings will help nobody.The ‘warning’ also features a photograph of a blond woman that supposedly depicts ‘Maggie the hacker’.
Moreover, the woman whose photograph is included in the hoax is certainly not a hacker and is innocent of the accusations made against her in the bogus warning.
Her photograph was stolen from a social media profile and added to the hoax message. The hoax has violated the woman’s privacy and unfairly damaged her reputation.
It is thus very important that users verify information in such social media ‘warnings’, especially if they include the names and images of alleged perpetrators. Such messages can have a significantly negative impact on the lives of entirely innocent people. Thus, sending on such messages is irresponsible.