Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beware Malware on Facebook

Computer Care: Beware of malware, other threats hiding in Facebook

By Arthur Glazer
POSTED: January 22, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Facebook may be a nice place to keep up with your friends online, but lately I've been wary of a couple of things concerning its security.

Have you noticed its availability to connect to other websites? All of a sudden I find the ubiquitous blue "F" icon wherever I go on the Internet.

Other web sites, forums and blogs are offering for you to use your Facebook credentials to log on to their sites. Sure, it's easier. You don't have to type in your e-mail address or make up yet another password, but is it safe? The short answer would be no.

They have since reversed the ruling, but Facebook officials recently said they were going to sell our names, addresses and phone numbers to their vendors. That would have meant whoever advertises on the site would be privy to your private information. Sure, under pressure, they quickly reversed it. But who knows what they will do next week or next month? I don't trust them.

Supposedly we would have ability to opt out, but it was up to us to find the link to disable that option.

I have since gone to my Facebook settings page and changed everything to make sure that only those I want to see my information will be able to. Go to yours by clicking on the "Account" link on the top right of the page and then click "Privacy Settings," then "Customize."

Also check your "Account Settings " at the same spot while you're there. Scrutinize the way your account is set up. Your privacy may depend on it.

Facebook is a business, bottom line and our information is a gold mine to them.

Not only is Facebook not to be trusted with our information, but it is also a huge source of malware.

The Internet security firm BitDefender, claims that social media sites are the largest source of malware online, especially on mobile devices. With Facebook being the most traveled social site, and more users logging on via cell phone, malware is spreading rapidly.

As a technician, most of my jobs in the past few months have been malware-related. As computer users and Internet traversers, you need to tread cautiously if you don't want to get infected.

Facebook is inundated with links and pop-ups to fake wallpapers and phony applications for the site. Some claim to allow you to see who has viewed your profile or who has "unfriended" you. Others offer nonexistent "dislike" buttons. These are nothing other than sources of malware.

Also beware of bogus surveys and links to FB apps such as Farmville giving away free add-ons to the games. By clicking on them, not only will you not get what you expect, but you may be giving away access to your sensitive information.

If apps such as those were available, Facebook would offer them to us.

Cybercriminals are financially motivated. They are there not only to send spam and spread malware, but also to steal your identities.

Sophos, another maker of online security products, says cybercriminals will be more prevalent in 2011 and that more threats should be expected on Windows 7 and iPad platforms.

They claim that over 50,000 Web pages hosting various forms of malware are discovered daily — every day!

The most common ones and the one I see most often are fake anti-virus or anti-malware programs. What they are in reality is nothing other than sources of malware. Click on them and you open up your computer for them to access or just spread the infection throughout your system and to those in your address book.

Beware of pop-ups from programs not installed that warn you of infections. If you didn't run a scan with an app, it can't advise you, plain and simple.

Sophos offers a free social media toolkit for your social security, but you do need to register with them to get it. Find it here. There is some helpful information in it.

Be careful what you click on and think twice before you do. Even an e-mail saying someone has commented on a photo of yours or tagged you in one of theirs may be bogus. Also beware of e-mails claiming that someone has posted something on your wall. Find them on FB instead of going there from that e-mail. They may not be legitimate.

Even on the Facebook site, remain vigilant. Once you click that "Allow" button you could be opening up the floodgates. Any requests for permission should be denied.

Be aware of links that take you to pages where you see an "Allow" button to access your profile. If you have apps installed that you don't trust, hit the "Remove" button next to them, to be sure.

Facebook is a virtual street in the virtual city of Internet. It can be a dark alley if you allow it.

As far as allowing it to be your universal Internet log-on, I wouldn't.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. Arthur welcomes your computer questions and ideas for future columns.

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