Circulating message warns of ‘new hackers in the speed’ that are taking names and pictures from Facebook profiles and using them to create new fake profiles.
The threat described in the warning is valid and is a technique known as ‘cloning’. Facebook users certainly should be aware of this threat and know how to protect themselves from it. However, it can not be accurately described as ‘hacking’. The perpetrators are not actually hacking into Facebook accounts. They are taking publicly available information and using it to create fake profiles. Refer to the detailed analysis below for more information about Facebook cloning.
New hackers in the speed. Taking all the pictures on your profile, your name and create a new account on FB. They would ask your friends to add to them. Your friends think it’s you and accept. From that moment on they can write and publish what they want, with your name. Please don’t accept any new friend request from me. I have only one page! Copy this message on your wall, until everyone is informed, thank you copy and paste (not share).
According to a warning message that is currently spreading across Facebook, there are ‘new hackers in the speed’ that we should be aware of. The meaning of the phrase ‘in the speed’ in this context is a little obscure. However, the gist of the warning is that hackers are stealing names and profiles from Facebook accounts and using them to create new profiles in the victim’s name. Then, explains the message, the hackers, posing as you, can ask the people on your friends list to add them. Your friends may think it is you and accept. Now the hackers can publish what they want in your name.
In fact, the technique described in the warning is real. It is known as ‘cloning’ and is an all to common occurrence on Facebook. Cloning is a significant security threat for Facebook users.
I describe Facebook cloning in more detail below. However, before we get to that, one point in the warning message needs to be clarified. The people who perpetrate Facebook cloning schemes cannot be accurately described as ‘hackers’. They are not hijacking or ‘hacking’ into the actual Facebook accounts of victims. Instead, they are taking publicly available information from Facebook profiles and using this information to build fake profiles that closely mirror the original. Hence the name ‘cloning’.
This mislabeling of the attackers may seem unimportant. However, it IS important that any Internet security warnings contain accurate and and easily understandable information. Mislabelling can cause confusion and potentially detract from the worth of the underlying message.
Anyway, on to what cloning actually is and why scammers might use such a tactic.
To reiterate, Facebook cloning is a technique in which scammers build a bogus Facebook profile by using names, images, and other information taken from the targeted user’s real Facebook profile. With this information, the scammers may be able to create a profile that looks very similar to the victim’s real profile. The more profile material that the victim has set to ‘public’, the more detailed and credible the cloned account may appear.
After the scammers have built a fake profile, they can send out friend requests to people on the victim’s friends list.
Some of the victim’s friends may accept this second friend request because they mistakenly think that the victim has accidentally unfriended them. Or, if they have a large number of Facebook friends, they may have simply forgotten that they were already friends with the victim and accept the second friend request. And, there are some Facebook users who tend to immediately accept all friend requests without due caution.
Once the scammers have a good collection of new ‘friends’ on the fake profile, they can begin sending scam messages using their victim’s name.
They may try to draw the friends into advance fee scams by claiming that the victim has won a prize and offering the ‘friend’ the chance to also win.
They may send messages that claim the victim has been stranded in a foreign country and needs a short term loan to get out of trouble. Because the recipients of the message think they are talking to someone they know, they may agree to send the money.
The scammers may also use the illusion of friendship to collect personal information from the victim’s friends. A clever cloner may even be able to commit identity theft by tricking the victim’s friends into divulging a large amount of their personal and financial information.
To protect yourself from Facebook cloning, ensure that you use privacy settings that guard as much of your information as possible from strangers.
If you find that your Facebook account has been cloned, you should report the fake account to Facebook. You should also let all of your friends know about the cloning attempt so that they will not be caught out by fake friend requests.
And, of course, as the circulating warning advises, do not accept any friend requests from people that you are already friends with. At least not before verifying that the request is genuine.
Last updated: March 12, 2016
First published: March 12, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen
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