Social media platforms are a gift for hackers who want to spread their viral creations far and wide, and to as many people as possible. Most social media users don’t even know they’re infecting and infected, until something ‘strange’ happens to their computer.
Spam scams and social media wild fires
Facebook spammers can make up to $200 million a year by simply posting links. This revelation comes from Italian security researchers who investigated hundreds of thousands of Facebook postings.
Spam can be deeply irritating but what’s interesting is the amount of money at stake. Apparently the spammers use up to 20 web sites where they contract their services for cash.
Facebook Scam with Ransomware, the virus that asks for money in order to unlock your computer
This Facebook spam scam illustrates the money making potential for those without a conscience. Ransomware is another particularly nasty and very lucrative virus that freezes up your computer until a demand for money to unlock your computer is met. It may sound crude but many are actually sophisticated.
Ransomware can spread from a number of different sources but on social media platforms like Facebook it moves with the lightning fury of a forest fire. In fact, from a hacker’s point of view social media sites are a great way to get ransomware to as many people as possible.
One of the most subtle methods of infection is drive-by downloads. By clicking on a compromised website, an HTML-based email or clicking on a pop up window a user unknowingly downloads the virus, and can unwittingly spread it with all the viral efficiency of a common cold.
For example, somebody posts something on their wall, which has a malicious link in it, to say 300 friends. Out of these perhaps 30 or so repost on their wall to their friends and in turn some of these recipients post on their walls and so on. The malicious link spreads exponentially and within a short time can be infecting hundreds of thousands of social media users.
But even in the worst case scenario for a hacker if only 10,000 people are tricked by the ransomware (and remember Facebook has over 1 billion users) the potential to make a bundle of money in a short space of time is significant.
The FBI Moneypack virus is still making victims
A relatively recent and sophisticated piece of ransomware that has spread through US social media links is something called FBI Moneypak. It surfaced over 18 months ago but is still doing the rounds. It freezes up a computer and then blares out an image that tells you your computer has been locked by the FBI because you’ve been violating copyright and related laws. More recent versions include references to viewing pornography web sites. However, if you’re willing to pay a fine, usually within the range of $100 to $200, the computer will be unfrozen.
Attempts to get the computer back to normal are reportedly futile and lead back to the ‘FBI warning.’ However, help is at hand in the form of a Moneypak ad on the right hand side of the screen. It conveniently offers an option for making the payments. Apparently plenty of people have been scared into coughing up.
How to prevent being infected?
This and other ‘social media’ transmitted viruses can be stopped in their tracks by a good antivirus package. BullGuard AntiVirus is one of the best because it doesn’t just stop viruses by recognising their signatures it also detects abnormal behaviour in a computer. What’s more it has the best detection rates in the industry and offers solid Facebook protection.
So, if you are a victim of a drive-by download, and remember you’re unlikely to know anything about it until it’s too late, the BullGuard product will detect the unusual behaviours generated by the viruses’ attempts to burrow into your system.
It’s not a good bet to assume you’ll never be hit by these infections. Keep in mind that the motive for cyber crims is to make money and by using social media sites to spread the potential wide, far and rapidly. In fact, the further they spread the more hackers can make and with a successful virus they could easily be vying with spammers for the $200 million a year cash hot spot.
Posted by Steve Bell